Advice on knowing you're the worst

I'm two months into my role as a first year analyst at an IB and I'm seeking advice on what my general mentality should be considering I'm by far the worst analyst. A little background: recent college grad with no IB experience prior to my current position. Applied for the job, had one phone interview then got invited to the SD. Got the job. I have my theories on how I landed the job in the first place, but don't want to disclose too much personal information. 

I know this seems a little preemptive as I'm only two months in, but I'm horrendous, especially compared to the other first years. I'm struggling knowing that people are looking at me like I'm an idiot. I feel like an idiot, most notably when my superiors ask me to do something and I do it wrong or I just don't know how to do it at all. I takes me three times longer than the others, including the interns, to complete a task. While I'm constantly asking questions, I'm starting to feel like a burden.  I am "that analyst" and it's driving me crazy. I'm making major mistakes and it's frustrating everyone involved.

I like the work and I find it incredibly interesting. I don't mind the hours. I agree with the adage that the learning curve in IB is vertical as I have already learned so much in a very short period of time. However, I'm still miles away from everyone else and it is very obvious.

Is it best to just accept I'm not on the same level and view this opportunity as a way to better myself (i.e. I'm using the firm for my two year stint then taking the experience and moving on)? Is it wrong that I plan on sticking through it, even though I am not providing much substance to my firm? I don't feel right straight up saying I can't provide the same level of work as my peers, even though it's true. I don't want to make excuses but at the same time I don't want to do something so wrong it reflects poorly on my firm or myself. Basically, what is the best mindset to adopt moving forward?

Any advice would be appreciated. If necessary, be brutally honest. 

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Comments (14)

Aug 5, 2021 - 12:57am

This Rapper called rabbit choked in a rap battle and his rep tanked. He came back a month later and won 3 battles in a row and inspired a director to create a movie about it.

All I can say is you're clearly choking based on your post.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 5, 2021 - 1:47am

It's pretty easy to realize if you're a shit analyst. It's much harder to fix that. So you really only have two options: you either just settle for being bottom bucket and receive bottom bucket bonuses (highly unlikely you'll get pushed out as an analyst) or you sit down and try to figure out why you are so behind the curve. Is it your corporate finance knowledge? Is it your PowerPoint / Excel mastery? Is it your attention to detail? Is it your communication? Figure that out and work on it. Don't send out work that you know is wrong - people would rather have you ask a bunch of questions then send stuff back time and time again for you to revise. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 5, 2021 - 2:42am

Uh 2 months is still pretty early, you've got time, but it's a major uphill battle. First impressions can be hard to shake and perhaps more importantly your confidence has gotten rattled, which has snowballing effects. Here's what I think after doing this for a few years:

First, as someone above mentioned, figure out where you are lacking and work to improve it. I would argue analysts generally are behind the curve for a few reasons:

  1. You are actually not smart enough (rare, but I have worked with people who just couldn't keep up)
  2. You keep making careless errors (fixable broadly, but your current team might hold the grudge forever)
  3. You are afraid to ask questions/ learn new things for fear of looking stupid and this snowballs to the point where you are petrified anytime a deliverable is assigned to you, so you continue to not do tasks. (Actually very common when people start out, you can fix this, you just need to change your mentality. Also, this might not be your fault you were just assigned very poor managers who aren't great at helping you ramp.

So, if it's number 1, I would leave the industry. That said, imposter syndrome is real and banking really isn't rocket science, so I would argue it's probably not that you are stupid. Also, I know kids who went from being music/ art majors who ended up top analysts, so prior preparation isn't your problem. You might have a confidence problem though, which can be even worse. Also, being told you suck can make you feel less and less confident and competent everyday which ultimately makes this job not worth it IMO. Decide why you care about this job and want to improve. If you don't have a reason for doing it, don't do the job.

If it's 2 (you keep making mistakes), it's not a natural skill you are bad at, you just are being disorganized. You need to make a check list of errors and things to review before sending out a deliverable and go through that list every time before you send. I promise if you literally check off "footnotes have periods" you will have footnotes that periods. Also, if you are listening to music as you work, stop doing that, and slow the hell down. Also, before sending a deliverable close your eyes and spend 10 minutes in silence doing nothing then review it again. You might have never sat in silence your entire life, but this (mediation) can help immensely for reorienting your ability to spot errors. Also, unless you have a meeting in 10 minutes, no one will care if you spend 10 minutes to respond to something-that's basically a long dump and a hallway chats amount of time. What sucks about making errors early, is people don't trust you to take on larger responsibility then. I would recommend trying to have a heart to heart with individuals on your team on how you can work to improve and show them some concrete steps you are taking to be less error prone. Unfortunately here is the vicious cycle that happens with this job: 1) analyst/ intern makes errors 2) senior analyst/ associate checks for errors and finds them 3) analyst/intern sends a new deliverable 4) senior analyst/ associate looks extra hard at the deliverable because the last one had errors. Now the flip side, if you get things right, people basically stop checking your work because they trust you to have their back and as a result less errors are found with your work since no one checks it.

So now we get to 3, which sucks a lot. I'm betting it is a bit of all these, but 3 is the one that is the hardest mentally to deal with. First off, a truth: bankers are pretty horrid managers. Acknowledge you are likely being mismanaged and it is not your fault and comparing yourself to other analysts who might be in better situations isn't fair. Just as an example, I had an analyst early in my career who refused to answer questions I asked when I was an intern. After having had many rounds of interns and analysts under me, I now know that's just an abusive manager. When I have people that report to me today, I make it very clear that they should always come to me for questions and the dumber they are early, the quicker they will ramp and help me relax, while I can watch them do my job and make me look good :D. 

Either way, good manager or bad manager here is what I would do:

1) Find a buddy or another smart analyst in your class and just ask them all the really really dumb questions you are afraid to ask. No joke, I had one kid ask me how to do expenses after a year of working. Just rip the bandaid off and be stupid in front of one of your fellow analysts or someone you don't directly work with-it's really not a big deal especially if you haven't don't something before. If you feel afraid to ask a question on how to do something you haven't done before you are going to have a really hard time in life.

2) start separating out your mistakes into 2 buckets:

  • This was actually my fault/ I knew better and was careless 
  • I wouldn't have known to do this until I made the mistake 

People will make you feel bad for both, but mentally you shouldn't feel like you see screwing up if you learned from an error that doesn't happen again. In fact, I would argue that is almost the best thing you can do early on when you start.

I was typing this on my phone while commuting, but listen, keep your head up. You aren't writing your entire job history in the first 2 months. Everyone is useless during that time. You and your class still have a ton of wood to chop!

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 5, 2021 - 5:47pm

The team was going off last night in so many ways.

Amazing how the job can be not bad if you have a busy MD and director, VP with nothing to prove, and associates and analysts who are gracious and respectful to one another.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 5, 2021 - 10:07am

I just want to say in spite of this ignorant comment-having actually worked in the job, diversity hires end up being just as effective as analysts. I think often they are weaker at interviewing, but when it comes to fulltime work, they end up being just as good. You will learn over time how ignorant your comment is. 

Aug 5, 2021 - 3:45pm

Watching some David Goggins running and shouting at the camera always helped me whenever im in a funk. Stay hard

I'm from Europe 

Aug 5, 2021 - 4:37pm

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