Analyst Burn Out Tips (Surviving COVID, WFH, and The Sweatiest of Shops)

Tips for analyst Survival:

Lately, I have been seeing a ton of analyst burn out posts and wanted to provide some advice that has really helped me. I'm currently in a pretty sweaty office in TMT and have been faring much better mentally than some other analysts at my firm (with good reviews as well) and my hope is this advice will help you guys. Overall, I just wanted to let you all know that we are all having a brutal time with COVID and this hot market, so just keep taking it one step at a time--it will work out. Remember why you took this job and see you on the other side :).

Tip 1: You need to start pushing back and communicating your workload. 

I get that there are banks with hardo culture and I get that there are people who will scream and shout and call you soft etc. There comes a point where if you have gotten 5 hours of sleep 5 nights in a row, you need to let your team know that your work product is suffering due to getting 5 hours of sleep the last 5 nights and you will return to whatever deliverable after sleeping for 2 hours. A decent associate/ VP or any reasonable person on the planet will respect this and won't hold it against you--even in a sweaty group. In fact, most people will forget about the event next week. If they are unreasonable or hold it against you, seriously who gives a flying f**k what they think. You need to start pushing back on unreasonable requests or demands. This isn't you being unreliable, this isn't letting your team down, this is being a mature adult and acknowledging people have limits and that the firm is worse off by you haphazardly putting together a deck or model while a zombie. I get that it is very scary admitting that you need to sleep to a senior and it is difficult, but there comes a point where you need to not request this break, but state that factually your work product is suffering and you will resume later. This isn't something you do on the first 3am of the week, or even the second, but if you have actually gotten crushed 4 nights in a row, state what happened the last several nights, sleep, and return to your work. I am top bucket and I have done this--seriously. Generally here is what happens: some people actually respect you more after the exchange for maturity and the fact that when you came back you knocked it out of the park (unlike the other analysts who put things together while having a potato brain). Others provide not-so-subtle jabs in response and are bitter, but you just ignore that because they completely forget the exchange the next week. And finally, some people are an asshole before the exchange, an asshole during the exchange, and still are an asshole a week later. So basically, your relationship remains completely unchanged, and they still are fat, single, and lack a shred of human decency. I'd argue seniors at your firm know this, so relax about their review or just don't select them to evaluate you. You might even be able to communicate to your staffer that you would prefer to not work with that individual going forward.

Tip 2: Set short-term and long-term goals.

Short term, it could be just trying to get to Friday evening. Honestly, that was my goal a few weeks ago. I had a two week stretch where it was either 1am or 3am every night including the weekend. This weekend, I've been in bed by 7pm Friday, Saturday, and expect a reasonable hour tonight. Just take it one day at a time and you will be able to get through it.

Long term, start thinking about the long term move here. I'm leaving banking, I know this. So, each day, week, and month, just becomes another closer to the finish line. If you don't have an end goal in sight, it might be time to start setting a goal--maybe it is making it to the 1 year mark, maybe it is a long weekend where you have a friend's wedding, maybe it is a certain dollar amount in your bank account. It's deeply important that you are working toward something because it will give purpose to the late nights and give you something you are fighting for and looking forward to. If you don't have a reason you are doing this job, I'd just quit. Seriously, it's not worth it and you are going to feel terrible for a long time while also being hopeless and losing confidence each day--which I would argue defeats the purpose of you initially getting this job. By the end of your analyst experience you should feel very confident and capable. If you lose all confidence and hope, this job wasn't worth it.

Tip 3: Try to exercise when you can.

Yeah, I know this one is tough. But if you get some free time, do pushups, squats, go for a quick run etc, even twice a week/ just Friday and Sunday makes a huge difference. I cannot tell you how much feeling physically strong has helped me emotionally cope with this job. Honestly, just in general, if you do 5 sets of pushups to failure every 3 days envisioning yourself shoving your soulless clown of a director off the biggest mountain possible, you will very quickly feel your chest become almost as big as The Rock--this is supported by science and studies. You then can leave banking looking like a walking chest of a man/woman( ;D ) which is great for all of us.

Edit: Tip 3.5--Try to Eat Healthy

A user mentioned this and I think it is important as well. Personally, I have 2 things that I do to help eat healthy. 1) I am a chronic stress eater and know this, so to combat this, I have only healthy food in my apartment. I once stress ate close to a pound of celery because I find it doesn't really matter what I am eating, it is just nervous energy. Try to make it convenient to eat healthy things and it will help you not gain as much weight and you won't feel the job is taking as much from you. Also try switching to only drinking water and having a gallon a day if you are still having weight problems. 2) Buy an Air fryer (it doesn't actually fry food, its just a small convection oven) and Rice Cooker. It's really easy to make a perfectly cooked meal of rice and chicken in close to 15 minutes without paying attention at all if you air fry the chicken and use a rice cooker. I eat a chicken breast and rice like 3 times a week and it takes me close to 1 minute to cook it because I just put it in the air fryer, take it out, and eat it on conference calls. I then use my lunch break to do push-ups or day dream about quitting.

Tip 4: They won't fire you.

Anecdotally, how many analysts can you think of, or have you heard of, who were fired due to performance? Personally, outside of COVID layoffs, it's actually zero for me. ZERO. Even for those COVID layoffs, the most junior employee had like 10 months of banking experience and likely can go do a ton of different careers while claiming he was in banking even with being laid off. At a point you need to acknowledge missing a 3am request while you are sleeping, or simply giving it your best go and then getting reprimanded for it not being perfect, isn't going to result in you being unemployed. Especially in the first year, you aren't expected to be perfect and are given some leniency. The people who actually do lose their analyst jobs are those who are careless time and time again, while also not being culture matches for the firm, while also likely coinciding with some economic event that allows the firm to churn employees. A one off missed phone call at 3am will be ok, just turn your phone off before sleeping and in the morning say "I apologize I fell asleep--it won't happen again. Going forward I will ALWAYS have my phone on MAX volume! (aka kick rocks, and s my d (or c for my girl bankers!!!)).

Tip 5: Start sandbagging and letting people know you are "tied up", but will gladly start that project in an hour.

Look, part of being a good employee is managing expectations. I suspect many of you aren't doing this and also aren't factoring in personal time as part of your time to complete a job making you suffer unnecessarily. If a task takes you 45 minutes, say it will take 1.5 hours and provide the deliverable after an hour and fifteen minutes while giving yourself a 30 minute break to eat lunch. You under promised and overdelivered, while stating timing accurately/ communicating well. This makes you look like a good communicator and someone who is reliable, while also helps you not completely lose your shit. If someone messages you during that 30 minute lunch break, say that you are currently working on the deliverable for the other deal. Otherwise, in general, if you are about to blow your brains out due to stress and are getting bombarded. Just let people know you are "tied up" and will be able to start on the deliverable in the next 30 minutes. This isn't going to tank the firm and I promise no one is timing all analysts on specific tasks and comparing you against another analyst for making the exact same changes in a deck or whatever silly stupid task you are supposed to do that day.

Think about it from a manager's perspective--if you had an analyst that did a perfect flawless job on materials all the time, but communicated ahead of time and refused to work 3 all-nighters in a row ever, would you fire that employee? No, rather, you would be thrilled that that reliable analyst does a great job on their projects 99% of the time and you would just know that if that 3rd day swung around, you reliably would need to cover for that individual. Constant communication and being predicable/ reliable is really 90% of the analyst job in my opinion--it's not pulling several 3am's, without communicating your workload. That's just being a punching-bag and martyr for your firm, who might not even be aware of your sacrifice and who ultimately doesn't really care about your well being. You are making your life harder than it needs to be and are at best being marginally more productive.

Tip 6:  If you are really about to lose it--take a personal day.

But but but, "My culture won't allow that". Great, say you have an urgent Doctor's appointment or an emergency internet/plumbing/ health issue that you needed to take care of. Alternatively, calmly state you have the runs or a possible pregnancy scare, and spend the rest of the day watching the Karate Kid, Uncle Buck, and John Wick 3. This goes back to tip 3--are they really going to fire you if you had a rogue plumbing issue that made you out of office on a particular day? Prob not. Hell you could prob pull this three times a year with different deal teams and no one would even blink. (Just please don't do this at my bank because then people will start to get suspicious of all our leaky pipes).

Final Note:

Stay strong, and remember: regardless of that person yelling at you and how miserable you feel, you probably are pretty kick-ass for holding down this job and all you are putting yourself through. It will work out, and when it does, you will be able to watch all the Uncle Buck and Karate Kid you want and you will have unlimited days of pregnancy scares--isn't that what this is all about?

Bonus Tip: You should always be learning and this job isn't stupid/ simple/ non-intellectually challenging work, you just are truly oblivious. 

There are additional posts on analysts saying they aren't learning anything, or feel useless and unable to help their teams etc. I don't know what you are doing and genuinely don't know how this is possible. Do you need to be told to do every single task? Take initiative! Start looking at old deals, rebuild a model, work alongside your associate drafting materials, think about how to improve your ability to do your job. You are at a firm that has loads and loads of proprietary data on past transactions that people literally pay millions of dollars to receive insight based on. Start trying to learn from old transactions and understand the industry you are covering or the product you are selling and viewing it from a big picture perspective. I am leaving banking because I hate it, but the people arguing this work is meaningless or is not "intellectually challenging" are the sort of people that could run the model for a deal, but if asked how the EBITDA and revenue have been trending the last 5 years and what makes the business special, they wouldn't have the slightest clue. Do the work of moving logos and making sure things tie, but take a step back and try to ask yourself, "What is my MD thinking on this transaction?" You are certainly doing grunt work in this job, but all around you is very complex and valuable information. You just have to accept that you are no longer in school anymore and it won't be spoon fed to you and served with a gold star when you regurgitate the exact same material back a week later. On the bright side, at least you get paid.

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Comments (41)

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Feb 1, 2021 - 8:51am

Wish I saw this last year - Didn't convert my Summer despite having top reviews halfway. Learning point: know how to push back.  I got more work as a result of doing well in the first half, but basically output went downhill after getting swarmed leading to that's all they remembered. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Feb 2, 2021 - 7:17pm

You can look at this by viewing compensation reports on this website. Roughly speaking, for analysts the first 3 years averages to 150k, but many places will pay more, some less. After that, close to 200k+ for years 4-7 then close to 350k. Along the way, many people will make pay trade-offs working less for less money or more for more money etc. I think for some people the job makes a ton of sense due to it's early career earning potential (if you have loans) or if you are willing to trade your early twenties to build a nest egg/ experience that you plan on leveraging later in life. For me personally and I think most people, it is a mix of both.

Feb 2, 2021 - 8:54pm

So essentially, for working 24/7 you roughly get: 150k per year for the first 3 years, 200k for the next 3 years, and only after that you get at most 350k? How is your total compensation package structured (do you get a base salary + cash bonus, or how do you compute the numbers)? Do they pay everything in cash (no stocks)? At what age do you start? You guys are getting screwed big time

Feb 2, 2021 - 7:43pm

+1sb great post. One thing you can do for exercise, as I find just straight press-up sets boring, is Sally up with Press-ups. It's barely 3 and a bit minutes, so easily to fit it in, plus it's very decent workout for the time.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Feb 3, 2021 - 1:35pm

Why do you hate banking? You say you're leaving for sure and I think that says everything.

You bring up some valid points, but I think your "bonus tip" is not entirely realistic. Yes, we have access to a bunch of valuable information and I honestly strive to use my spare time to pick up old models and look at old transactions so I can actually build my technical skillset, but look at the rest of your post... how much time do you actually have to do that? My entire day is swamped with much more of the less interesting stuff.. admin entries related to deals (LOTS of this), filling out forms, fixing footnotes, rewording pages, maintaining trackers, and quite frankly stuff that's not all that interesting. So yes, I'd say we have the opportunity to learn valuable things about deal making and finance, but in my experience, my schedule has been entirely booked up and jammed on things that quite frankly aren't interesting at all.

And this is coming from someone who honestly thinks might stay in banking even despite the above.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Feb 3, 2021 - 4:43pm

Original poster here: I hate banking because the industry is overly time consuming, hierarchal, inefficient, and the limit to satisfy clients has no bounds, which I could see harming my family and relationships long term. I'd rather not work my way up a corporate latter and have a rigid promotion track without ability to really excel in my field until I'm at least 35ish, no matter the price. It pays well, but for the life I want, I'd rather be paid less doing something else. I also don't feel that fulfilled when a deal is closed and would rather help build a business. I'm leaving for sure because I already have an exit lined up and long term don't see the trade off making sense for me. That said, I think it's an awesome gig for awhile for many people. Mainly because, as mentioned, I entered the industry with a very concrete long-term goal of what I wanted to get from the job. I got that experience and understanding I wanted, so now I'm ready to leave. I think my tips are pretty spot on if you haven't been in the industry for at least 2 years (then it's a little different). After that, it's more a long term career trajectory question, which again gets to my point of having short-term and long-term goals. I think my bonus tip is super realistic especially when paired with the above tips--you just might be missing something.

Mate, you are talking to someone who has had nightmare scenarios and years of fire-drills, while being a top performer, who also has had good friends at other banks and in private equity. There are certainly weeks where it gets hairy for all of us and it is hard to do the above, but if you actually feel you have 0 free hours in a week over a span of months to take a step back and view things from a high level, you either are horribly inefficient (first 6 months this is unavoidable), you aren't managing internally well, or your bank has a systemic staffing problem that's continued over years, in which case lateral to a better bank if you actually want to stay in the industry long term.  I'm guessing you are a new analyst, in which case my advice would be to really reread the above. Not every request is actually urgent--saying it will take you an hour to do a 45 minute task and leaving yourself 15 minutes to look at it from a high level isn't rocket science. Alternatively, spend an hour Saturday morning just talking through what you did throughout the week (if you have 9am-10am every saturday blown-up something isn't right with your situation). If your bank/group is actually so jammed with deals that they can't afford to have anyone spend an extra 15 minutes on a task they would hire more analysts, even if your associate/ vp makes it seem like the world will end unless an hour task is done in the next 5 minutes.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Feb 3, 2021 - 6:41pm

You're misreading my post entirely. I don't think I ever said I had 0 free hours in a week over a span of months to take a step back and view things from a high level. Before starting as an analyst, the vast majority of my growth has my own self-study. Studying for the GMAT, building practice models, reading finance / history / philosophy / literature, etc. I consider myself a very intellectually curious person. On top of that, I care about my health (exercise and diet), relationships, etc. even moreso than my job.

My point is that in this job, the vast majority of your time is not devoted to doing things that foster growth (building models, studying deals, creating better theses. etc.). If left to my own free will, I would be spending far more time doing exactly those things. However, instead, I'm doing more admin-type tasks. Is that just the nature of the corporate world? Yeah, probably. And it's less than ideal given that I feel that the time I spend on those admin tasks could be far better used towards more fulfilling things. So I think you're mispresenting reality. Yes, there's always something to be learned. But it would be far more rewarding if I had more time to dedicate time to learn those things. Time is my most valuable resources and a lot of it is not being used properly in this job.

Feb 7, 2021 - 2:15am

Awesome insightful tips! It's always nice to remind analysts and others who are just suffering from the grunt of the work on how to recover and handle the stress of the job. Take care of yourselves, everyone!

Contra omnes dissident
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