An Unconventional Message for all You Prospective Monkeys out there

Long-time reader, first-time poster.

Just wanted to share my story so far since I graduated from undergrad ~8 months ago & when I was a prospective monkey, I really appreciated people's stories of their experiences and their advice they had for others. My take is a little different than the typical "I went to a target and got into a BB, here's how to do it" post, hopefully you can take away something useful for you as you are going through the long, mysterious, and frustrating journey of getting a job on Wall Street.

Like everyone here, I was desperate to get an investment banking job out of college. Coming from a non target , I was realistic with myself and focused my internship/employment targets on middle-market and boutique banks. Throughout my four years, I had an unpaid summer internship at a PE shop focused on mid-market companies in a variety of industries. I got this one through some connections and actually a high school alum whom I networked the shit out of to get me in there. Although I did not have the chance to see a deal close, the experience was absolutely amazing and I knew that I wanted to get myself over to the buyside as soon as I could.

My senior year of college, I had the opportunity to work (unpaid, again, making so much paper here guys) a a tech-focused IB start-up part-time while I was going to school. In all honesty, I hated the menial tasks an IBD analyst had to do: updating contact lists, powerpoint formatting, etc, you know the deal. But, I loved the jungle that is Tech finance and was willing to grind it out at a tech boutique bank in the hopes of getting over to a tech-focused PE firm. After a long summer after I graduated calling and interviewing with any tech boutique in Silicon Valley that would talk to me, I was offered a job at a small boutique that would start out part-time for the first 6 months and if I didn't fuck up or anything there would be a full-time offer waiting for me.

At that same time, my buddy who was working for an investment fund administrator put my name in for a job at a very small HF (HF in its infancy for an absolutely pitiful salary. Talk about some real job prospects, eh?!? There was no third option of getting a job in another field, because I love finance and couldn't see myself in any other industry.

I ended up taking the HF gig. And here's what I've got for you guys so far 6 months in:

Cons:

1. my pay is pitiful. I know I've already said this but it needs to be said again so you really understand. I'll put it this way: My roommate, a business management major, got a job working in "Information Systems and Testing" at a big electric/gas company and is making double what I am making. He basically sits on a comp all day and waits to see if one of their IT systems fails a routine test. I am making so little money, you big whig PMs that are on this site lose more change than I make in a year.

2. I've had to take a second job working at a bar on the weekends to pay for rent/car payments. I've always worked at a bar or restaurant my entire life and actually enjoy it, but not after working 60-70 hours during the week.

3. Watching friends that I know who are so much less smart (didn't want to say dumb, so using that combo of adjectives, judge me if you want) make literally double or even more than what I am making. This sounds very entitled-ish, but those who have been through this know what I mean. It really starts to weigh on you as the time goes on.

4. Because of con #3, I have experienced many sleepless nights and long thoughts on what the hell I am doing at this job and whether or not I should start looking for something else.

Pros:

1. I am on the buyside. Every piece of work that I do is meaningful to my boss, the fund, and to me. Does my boss ask me to do update spreadsheets / do some menial administrative tasks? Absolutely. But I am definitely not pulling an all-nighter because my MD decided to change his mind last minute on the format scheme of a Powerpoint he's showing to clients the next day. This is where I wanted to be in the first place, except I don't have to deal with much of the bullshit that much of everyone else has to go through for 2-3 years, or longer.

2. The wealth of knowledge I am obtaining is unparalleled to the usual IB analyst. This really exemplified itself to me when I saw an old friend over the holidays who's a first year analyst in the High yield division of a BB. I knew 10x more about the current state of the HY bond market than he did. And my fund only trades equities....

3. My boss is truly my mentor. The best comparison I can give of my relationship with my boss is he's Mr. Miyagi and I'm whatever that kid's name is from Karate Kid. He's the type of boss that gives me an assignment with some misinformation and will not tell me until I figure it out myself. Sounds annoying as shit, but trust me, it really teaches you how to think and analyze on your own and come up with your own investment process. Nevertheless, working this closely with a finance genius (he retired at age 45 from and just decided to start his own fund, and has very high ambitions for it) will never ever hurt you.

4. Working in a start-up like this is just for me. I know it's not for everyone, but I absolutely hate big business bureaucracy. I interned for a big corp in college (before my other internships) and the office politics and menial bullshit you have to do drove me up a wall. Here, I have my own office, just have to let my boss know a day in advance if I want to take off, and he's never asked me to write up a formal memo or powerpoint since I have been here. Whenever I recommend a stock to him, it's only through discussion and whatever else I want to bring to him. I really like this informal approach a lot.

5. I feel like a real contributor to the company and am already starting to develop a passion and obsession to enhance our fund everyday. I actually get pissed when I have a relatively unproductive day.

So, reflecting back on my first 6 months on the job, I asked myself "should I stay"? The answer is absolutely and unequivocally yes. Sure the pay is shit, I have a second job, and there is no name recognition to the company I'm working for. But I am doing real work everyday, have a great boss, and have the opportunity to try and make this company have some name recognition.

My message to all you prospective monkeys: go to the place that offers the best learning experience. If you are able to get that job at the BB that you've been wanting to get for so long, good for you and I applaud you for it. But if you get denied, do not scoff at others just because of the pay. I cannot believe I am saying this, but when you first start out, fuck that number that shows up on your paycheck every two weeks. WE ARE ONLY IN OUR TWENTIES. Guess what guys, even with that fat salary at that BB, you aren't gonna have time to spend it.You will be stuck in your office on Friday & Saturday nights doing god-knows whatever mindless shit your boss has you doing. And why are a lot of you doing it? To get to the other side.

Why not just start there? Take a chance on something that could be big. I think it is safe to say that a good majority of people on this website are smart and very ambitious, so if the new fund/shop you're working for goes under, I assure you that you will find another good job.

Like I said earlier, I am the third member of a very new HF. If we keep on doing well, I will then hopefully be the third member of a high-performing, large HF. You do the math on what my salary will be then. If that doesn't happen and we go under, my boss, a very well-connected man, has already told me he will personally make sure he reaches out to anyone and everyone he knows in the banking/finance industry to get me another job.

The time to take risks is now, prospective monkeys. Who's got the balls????

Comments (30)

Feb 10, 2014

Long post, nice job!

Feb 10, 2014

Interesting post, thanks! Probably would get more traffic on the HF board, but maybe @"AndyLouis" can get it promoted

Feb 10, 2014

good story, thanks for sharing, @"D M" thanks for the heads up (homepage for tomorrow)

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Feb 11, 2014

Great story! I would take experience over pay any day of my college and right-after-college career.

Do you have any advice for a non-target student looking for unpaid internships in banking? I know that cold e-mailing and cold-calling to set up informational interviews are the keys to success here, but which banks would you suggest to target and how would you approach people and emphasize your initiative to work for free?

Feb 12, 2014

Hey man, if you're career services at school did not have any avenues to breaking into banking (like mine), it's gotta be all on you my friend. I was lucky because I was able to get a lot of fresh contacts to call from the PE fund I worked for. But that still didnt get me a job....

One website where I found lots of opportunities was doostang.com actually. You might have heard of it. Its a career website only for the finance industry. Pay the money for it. It's worth it

You got the right idea doing the cold calls and informational interviews. Talk to all extended family and friends that are working or know someone that's working on Wall Street, etc. I reached out to an old family friend's nephew who was a trader and he invited me to shadow him for a day. Even though I didn't remotely want to become a trader, he set up info interviews with some of his banking buddies for me, took me out afterwards and introduced me to a bunch of people and it opened up a lot of doors. Best advice I can give you: never feel like you're annoying anyone. even if you are, who cares. they were in the same boat at some point or another too

Also, never initially reach out to a company already offering to work unpaid. It already undercuts you & they might be willing to pay. Save that as another touch point for if they tell you no.

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Mar 13, 2014

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Feb 12, 2014

amusing read, would love to hear updates on how your doing, and how your hf is doing. I am in the same boat I guess a couple years behind though, only being a junior in college.

Feb 12, 2014

Good post, sounded way too familiar since I'm in the exact same position as you (only difference being that I'm in PE). No-name boutique place, one of the three members of the deal team (one associate, fund manager and I), direct line to the boss and critical hand in decision making (since ~75% of the analysis flows from me).

But it can get depressing as hell at times (relatively low pay, not many people to talk to in the office and not much of a life outside of office). Been here for over a year now and beginning to feel fed up. Sigh. Guess it's one of the depressing days today.

Edit: I can't stress enough that working in such a small boutique is not for everyone. The hunger and zeal for learning can only get you through so many days. You gotta work real hard to preserve that zeal or it starts wearing off after a while.

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Feb 12, 2014

I was in a similar situation as far as having a great learning experience, poor pay being able to meaningfully contribute to my team. Problem was my team was not that great. Glad it's working for you.

Feb 12, 2014

I absofookinglootly agree. Sometimes you just need to have the balls to do it. Without taking risk there is no reward. You can always start from level zero, for example learn how to dig the ground and make things grow. So when you leave, you know THE PROCESS- as you mentioned that you have learnt a great deal of things working at this HF.

"It is our fate to be tormented with large and small dilemmas as we daily wind our way through the risky, fractious world that gave us birth" Edward O. Wilson.

Feb 12, 2014

Great story. As for start off pay, I'd like to use an old proverb; your career development is a marathon, not a sprint. GL OP!

Feb 12, 2014

I am on a similar boat as you. I am not content with the pay along with some of the menial tasks I am delegated at work (private RE firm) but I am learning a lot. Hopefully this sacrifice pays dividends in the long run....

I guess we are the Ivy/BB rejects that are somehow trying to make it the good 'ole hard way. Keep your head up fellas, keep working hard and keep shinning at your respective companies. I know how frustrating it is but this only makes you stronger. After a few years of experience, a lot of doors will open. EXPERIENCE IS KEY now a days.

A co-worker who just sucked it up and did his time with the company was just contacted by one of the big players in the game for an interview. The funny thing is that now he's contemplating staying with the company because he's become so valuable to them that he's starting to reap the rewards. They just promoted him, gave him a raise, a bigger office, an intern, more authority, etc. If he goes to the big dogs, its back to square one, although the ceiling is way higher and I am sure the perks/benefits are way better.

The moral of the story, hang in there...even the guys over at the top BB/HF/PE firms killing it had to pay their dues at one point. This is a stamina game.

Feb 12, 2014

Nice post. I've had a similar experience as well and made it through the other side and feel I am where I should be at the moment. Started at a small commercial RE brokerage learned the ropes and was hired by one of the big dogs a couple of years ago. Paying your dues is always necessary and the more people that realize that, the fewer entitled brats we'll have running around.

Feb 12, 2014

Great write-up, thanks for posting. I would happily take a boutique job paying 1/2 of what a BB would pay for the absence of office politics and Saturday night bullshit.

Feb 12, 2014

nice motivational post!
will be starting in a small start-up PE very shortly with very low pay... and that is after 3 years having experience as an accountant/auditor... and realizing too late I want to be in finance and not in accounting

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Feb 12, 2014

Good post...reminds me of a buddy of mine from college. We also went to a non-target, I went into PWM out of school and he networked his ass off to get a 6 month contract at a FoF in Toronto where he was from. They basically told him the same thing, "work your ass off, don't fuck up too much and we'll bring you on FT." He did, they came through, and the fund was recently acquired by a MF. Good for him. Haha

Just a thought, why don't you talk to your ambitious boss about his goals for the fund. If he wants to grow AUM (currently

Best of luck!

Feb 12, 2014

SB for you, mate.

Feb 12, 2014

imo, let your boss know you are doing that 2nd job just to get by, if he has any conscience, he'll give you a pay raise.

Mar 13, 2014

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Feb 13, 2014

I was once told that, if you are happy to work for free, there will always be someone to hire you. But then, you are not earning what you are worth, not even to them. What is the point?
With 50m invested, the fund would have presumably 2% (at least) of it as annual fee so I would hope that even the lowest ranked person there has a living salary and doesn't need to work in bars to pay for the rent.
The career choice and learning experience are compelling. I was hoping to read that the pay, as low as it might be, wouldn't actually be embarrassing...

The Investment Banking Eye Opener - ibeyeopener dot blogspot dot co dot uk

[Author of The Investment Banking Eyeopener Blog on ibeyeopener#blogspot#co#uk]

Feb 14, 2014

50M is not a lot. Your bonus in HFs are a lot more variable than banking.
HFs got crushed in 12 and 2013

Feb 15, 2014

50mln is not a lot, but you already know that. Your first few pay checks don't matter. I made a bit more as started on a grad program at a BB, but I still lived with flatmates and lived pay check to pay check for a year. It does not matter as the upside is massive.
You are learning a lot at the moment, and for the next couple of years it will be fine. But there will be a time when you need to look at bigger things, as one person to get knowledge from is not enough. You need exposure to a lot of different people to eat from all of them. But now is not the time.
If you have a decent performance this year he will throw you a 40-100K, and that should help you onto the next year. I wouldn't worry about the cash.
No need to tell him about the other job you are doing on the week end. People don't give a fuck about your problems. Give all you have to give as this is an amazing opportunity and you seem to enjoy it. Troop on. The bartending job is the equivalent of getting two all nighters at a BB but much more fun.

A bit of rambling, but I enjoyed your post. Again don't shut your eyes for other opportunities, as in 2 years time it will be time to move on to something bigger (unless you guys are starting to expand like mad!)

Feb 15, 2014

Just a thought.

I deal with HF as a sell-side banker. I come here between phone-calls or when I am doing checks on some docs that need to be sent out to clients (you can imagine how boring that is!). I disagree with some of the comments here.

Some put an excessive emphasis on learning in finance. This might come as an outrageous comment, but there are not many things to learn in finance. This is not an academia despite what some hedge fund managers think. What a firm wants from you is your 20s where you are naive enough to work for 100 hours a week for nothing (and to do what? Do tasks anyone with HS diploma can do).

What you can't learn is relationship building - which becomes important on everyone on the sell-side and deal-makers on the buy-side. Not so much for HF managers in a bedroom with Bloomberg terminals - probably those days when 2- 3 HF managers sat in a massive office trying to manage money are over, but you get the idea.

Another thing you learn is BS in the industry and office politics.

Feb 16, 2014
j-phone:

Just a thought.

I deal with HF as a sell-side banker. I come here between phone-calls or when I am doing checks on some docs that need to be sent out to clients (you can imagine how boring that is!). I disagree with some of the comments here.

Some put an excessive emphasis on learning in finance. This might come as an outrageous comment, but there are not many things to learn in finance. This is not an academia despite what some hedge fund managers think. What a firm wants from you is your 20s where you are naive enough to work for 100 hours a week for nothing (and to do what? Do tasks anyone with HS diploma can do).

What you can't learn is relationship building - which becomes important on everyone on the sell-side and deal-makers on the buy-side. Not so much for HF managers in a bedroom with Bloomberg terminals - probably those days when 2- 3 HF managers sat in a massive office trying to manage money are over, but you get the idea.

Another thing you learn is BS in the industry and office politics.

Strongly disagree with this.
You are right to say that our job is not rocket science, but what you learn from people is extremely important. I used to work for a long time at a BB being surrounded by tons of different people; I learned everything from everyone, even if it was something simple, I still needed somebody to teach it to me. Exotics/ structured produts/ flow/ back office/ middle office/ ISDAs/ CSAs/ Options/ Futures/ Delta/ Cash/ Gamma/etc........
When I came to another bank that was slightly smaller, I brought this vast amount of knowledge with me, and I got paid for it. I can see it when we are firing people at the moment, people who have been at my smaller bank are let go because they lack exposure to other products and have a hard time re-inventing themselves as the equity market gets battered (in terms of head counts, not markets...)

On the buy side it's the same thing, I had friends who left their small HF gig because they had stopped learning and growing; and they moved on to something bigger to be able to get more knowledge. For me the only reason I am staying in my job is because I am in a managerial role as a director now, and get to manage people and learn some new skills. A career is a constant growth process and you need to take from everyone around you as much as possible, otherwise it's time to move on, otherwise you will stagnate and never become filthy rich...

You seem to be working in IB "checks on some docs that need to be sent out to clients"; in a couple of years when you will be working as a VP you'll have a much more interesting line of work that will consists of selling, and at this point you will be thankful to have good Ds and MDs to learn from. It would be massively different if you were at a small shop with just one person to emulate.

Feb 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing your story man, great post.

Feb 16, 2014

Good stuff

Feb 16, 2014

SB great post. I'm the third member at a tiny fund getting paid next to nothing as well. I'll post about it someday.

Feb 16, 2014

This is a nice healthy dosage of motivation for another non-target. It's as if more doors have just opened for this prospect. (Please don't say anything negative to ruin this moment)

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Feb 17, 2014
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Feb 19, 2014