Dear Undergrads and Highschoolers
If the sheer volume of recent threads addressing burnout and attrition for analysts/associates didn't clue you in, banking culture is in a very rough place right now. I would strongly advise all of you to deeply contemplate why it is that you want to pursue this industry. Typical reasons why kids are drawn to finance include money, prestige, and exit ops. These are all legitimate incentives to pursue a career in my opinion, but right now I would argue the costs at which you will achieve those goals have changed.
You truly can't know what it is like until you actually experience it
Everyone knows banking is hard and how draining it can be - you have seen it hundreds of times before on here. Reading the experiences of anonymous users on an internet forum can be easy to dissociate from because you have no basis of comparison or actual relationship with these people. However, I can assure you their testimonies are real. I speak from experience, and I'd wager many other juniors feel the same way, when I say that you truly can't know what it is like until you actually experience it. I was also gung-ho about banking when I was in college. I didn't care to listen to people when they talked about the importance of group culture and WLB. I figured I would just suck it up and it would all be worth it.
Well having now endured it for a few years, I can tell you it has not personally been worth it for me. The continuous mental health strain and erosion from this industry's broken practices have taken a significant toll on me, and have altered the way I will approach future career decisions. There is blatant disregard for the well-being of analysts, associates, and even VP's at times, largely due to the mass supply of kids looking to break into banking. High turnover rates and the mantra of "earning your stripes" aren't helping things either. The comradery and bonds that helped many juniors get through long weeks have been destroyed by WFH.
Those who stayed in finance and achieved progression in the banking or PE space STILL have no free time and are under constant stress and pressure.
I have friends making 50% less than me who are infinitely happier, work 40 hours a week, and can actually use their vacation time. They still have the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and live a comfortable life, without sacrificing what I consider to be a lot, just for money and prestige. Bankers often times rationalize the sacrifices made in their 20's with the notion that things will magically get better later on in life. From my experience working with my superiors, those who stayed in finance and achieved progression in the banking or PE space STILL have no free time and are under constant stress and pressure.
The point of me saying all this is not to gatekeep or to try and dissuade anyone from doing something they are truly passionate about. I think many young guys want to pursue banking for the wrong reasons. I'll tell you a big secret, and I think far too many people don't talk about this enough. A ton of junior bankers, andfor that matter, are insecure af. It seems as though many kids choose this career path to fulfill a need to prove to their peers, family, or whomever that they are smarter, harder working, or have the ability to earn more money than anyone else. I was one of those kids - I wanted to use banking a means to escape my economic situation. Contrary to what you see in movies and all over social media, finance guys are not always the imposing types. There plenty of people who clearly have some serious, deep-rooted personal issues and are out looking for validation.
There are plenty of ways to make money and become successful
Looking back now with a bit more perspective than when I came in, I can ascertain that there are plenty of ways to make money and become successful, and banking is only one of them. I didn't intend for this to be a sob story or a rant, rather a statement that could possibly offer a view from someone who has been through the process and found it was not what I thought it was going to be.
I'm here to tell you that there is a whole other side to it
Undergrads right now still have the opportunity to try and consider new paths, and I would highly recommend at least exploring alternatives if you are solely focused on banking. High schoolers - (lol) why tf are you even interested in banking? Seriously ask yourself that. If your answer is to make money, yes, banking will do that for you, but there are so many ways to achieve that, including other avenues of finance. IB has been hyped up so much recently with youtubers, tik tokers, and ig finmeme pages alike shoving the prestige, salary figures, and all the shiny aspects down your throat. I'm here to tell you that there is a whole other side to it and I hope you at least take into consideration much of the valuable information on this site.
Anyway, just my thoughts. Would love to have some other more experienced members jump in here.