How to Escape Bottom Bucket

bbbank's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 85

Title says it all, say hypothetically you get placed bottom bucket. Outside of incorporating feedback from your review and taking it to heart, how can you escape the bottom bucket? It feels like a downward spiral since you start getting worse and worse staffings and kind of traps you as the go to "bad" analyst.

Curious if you guys have any advice or real world experience with this.

Comments (27)

Most Helpful
Nov 12, 2019

The trick is to stop making careless mistakes and to only make mistakes once. There are many threads on WSO about this, so take a look. Here are some of my own tips:

  • Read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (this is one of those books worth buying). Sounds silly, but start creating checklists for all of your work. This will help you avoid missing a footnote, forgetting to use your bank's shade of blue of slide 24, etc.
  • Print out and read everything twice.
  • Before starting any assignment, even somethig as mundane as spreading comps, ask yourself, "why am I doing this?" Understanding why you are working on what you are working on will help you catch silly mistakes and ask better questions.
  • Speaking of which....ALWAYS ask questions. I had an SVP when I was in IB who would interrupt MDs, clients, everyone constantly to ask questions. The guy was easily one of the smartest people I ever worked with. If you don't understand something, ask!!!!
  • Take an active interest in your work. If you hate IB, leave. You will never get out of this rut if you're 100% in it for the money. You do need to find the work at least somewhat interesting.
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Nov 13, 2019

Thanks Sil, insightful as always. So through just doing better work, even if it's on low-value projects, you think you can get to mid-bucket? Can't you get stuck bottom bucket since reputation isn't great, how would you even rebuild I guess

Nov 15, 2019

Hey @Sil spot on and helpful, as always.
Some advice given to me that I would add:
- when writing (a deck, IM, even an email) always think: "so what?"
- be concise and thoughtful
- ask questions. Many analysts think they would look stupid by asking and rather try to figure it out on the run. Don't.
- in addition to printing work (in colour), take your HP19BII or whatever pocket calculator you have, and check basic lines and kpis of the printed work. Chances are your MD will.
- always try to do a back of the envelope calculation of your model. Help you condense the key drivers, double check your complex model and articulate in a few steps your reasoning (valuation, accretion/dilution or whatever work in excel). Simple is beauty and if you can think and show this straight, chances are you get recognised by client, MD, VP or else people, who will not deep dive in the complexity of the model. You'll also be thankful to catch potentially serious mistakes.
- as many already mentioned: own your work, own your mistakes and own your decision (including why you are doing this).
Good luck, keep us posted how it evolves!

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  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Nov 13, 2019

Whatever you do, don't kick the bucket...

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Nov 13, 2019

I went from second last bucket to second bucket in one year. Work super hard, be proactive, and always understand the bigger picture of ur work

Array

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Funniest
Nov 13, 2019

hope there was more than 3 buckets

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Nov 13, 2019

Lol nice one

Array

Nov 13, 2019

Sil covered a lot, which is good. Here to add a few more tips / comments. A lot of these kind of overlap with eachothers, but hopefully this is helpful to people:

  • Don't make the same mistake twice - self explanatory (keep a log of all the mistakes you make, who caught it, what program it was, why that mistake happened, etc. and look for patterns if you think this is a problem. I recommend this for everyone hitting the desk for the first time, and yes, that includes post-MBA associates)
  • Own up to your mistakes / don't make excuses for mistakes - "I don't know how that happened," "I wasn't the the one to make that error," "oh ECM messed that up," etc. annoys the shit out of people. Just own up to it and say "I'll check into that" and then when you go with a revised product, then you can provide some context such as needed such as "fixed the model, the formula wasn't pulling all the way down the column" or something like that
  • Take ownership of your work / job - things aren't just completely off your plate once you finish an assignment. Follow up on next steps and don't do just the bare minimum. Think of ways to improve processes / slides / models, etc. instead of just going through the motions. This extends to non-deal related things too. People notice when you take your time to mentor people, for instance or update some internal process to be more efficient
  • Think of the implications of a certain project / event - if there's a model change, don't just sit there and wait for somebody else to then tell you to conform the changes in the pitch deck, for example. Similarly, after you do enough reps, you know that at some point you might have internal committee approvals, background checks, select a data room provider, pulling together certain analysis (e.g. nwc calcs, funds flow analysis, and more), etc. Anticipate these and be proactive, instead of just sitting around and waiting for instruction. This can be as simple as "hey [Associate / VP / MD], do you want me to start working on [x] as the next step for this deal?" no need to create the entire thing, since sometimes they'll say hold off. Essentially you want to be somebody that the rest of your team can rely on to help be a process manager and be the right hand person for the MD / VP / whoever to lean on - they're super busy too, and sometimes things slip through the cracks, and everyone appreciates you staying on top of things minimizing fire drills for everyone involved
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Controversial
  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 13, 2019

I would also add - stand up for yourself;
Say no to Bs staffings. Dress better than ur md. Skip Monday meetings, instead email group chairman for an update; start ur morning by reading the ft print edition on your desk

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Nov 13, 2019

Would not encourage any bottom bucket analyst to independently email group chairman and ask for an update. That's not their job and coworkers already signaling they don't trust your judgement.

Sure - stick up for yourself and check your work as others have said, but don't decide the right way out of bottom bucket is to start doing MDs job.

    • 3
Nov 13, 2019

Think he was being facetious lol

    • 1
Nov 13, 2019

.

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

    • 1
Nov 13, 2019

While the two above posts provide a great road map of what to do to not be ranked bottom bucket, I'm not sure they are really answering the question. The concern more lies in perception and changing said perception, which goes beyond merely doing the right things.

Basically, once you know your bottom bucket and that you do in fact want to change and will do whatever it takes, especially the bullets outlined ahead, you're going to really need to be proactive in communicating your goals to become a top analyst. Likely, you'll need to prove yourself with lower level stuff but as time goes on, and assuming no mistakes, you will need to seek out more important work. You might want to have more informal check ups with your staffers, etc. as you make progress. Not only will this make sure you are progressing but it will also force them to be aware of your progression and facilitate being put on more complex projects.

If you merely sit back and do the right things without actively engaging the perception change will take a lot longer, if at all.

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Nov 14, 2019

Thanks man, this is really helpful. Glad to know it's critical to take initiative and show your progress

Nov 14, 2019

For sure. Also, forget to mention, but you will probably need to fall on the sword initially. Vocalize how you realize you've made mistakes but want to change into a top performing analyst and would like to outline a path on how to do so. I'm guessing a lot of bottom bucket analysts don't really give a shit and don't want to change. By accepting responsibility and working towards fixing the issue you'll show a lot a maturity and initiative.

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  • Summer Associate in IB-M&A
Nov 15, 2019

Nailed it.

Then most important thing I have ever been told - perception is reality.

Nov 14, 2019

lateral

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

Nov 14, 2019

seduce GRETA THUNBERG

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Nov 14, 2019

Question: do you really have to be that good to avoid bottom bucket? As a general matter, I felt like analysts at my bank, myself included, made plenty of mistakes, and I was never ranked poorly at all. That's not to say I was careless, but I just don't think there is time for everything to be perfect in the first cut or whatever. I even had MDs get pretty angry at me a couple of times, but I tried hard to work through whatever the problems were.

Ironically, I don't think I really ever became committed to getting things right for any reason except saving my own ass until I left banking. Now I am in a flat organization where my boss's boss is a crazy business titan and doesn't have time to deal with mistakes and bullshit. Likewise, I can't give our bankers or counterparties a screwed up model, etc.. I am given ownership of my work and no one is going to check it. We only find out I was wrong when bad decisions are made and real economic consequences ensue. Accordingly, I make a point of being 100% sure I am directionally correct and not precisely wrong. That's easier to do when you have a few years of experience and know what to look for. Working with only one company also helps a lot.

Nov 14, 2019

Plenty of tips here on how to be a solid Analyst, but I would add that before all of that you have to first carefully consider: Do you belong in the bottom bucket? There are plenty of people in banking (in any industry, for that matter) who actually just are not cut out for that industry, and if that is the case for you then you should be thinking of other options instead of trying to be better at something you are not going to stick with anyway.

There isn't any shame in it, either. This forum probably would not be the most sympathetic to a bottom bucket analyst, but if you're there more because you hate numbers/can't function on less than 8 hours of sleep/have a debilitating health issue and less because you can't do basic arithmetic/just don't even bother/are a complete asshole, that's fine. Just pack up and move on, no big deal.

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Nov 15, 2019

What else would you do though... like there isn't much else besides entrepreneurship that requires that much dedication to craft

    • 1
Nov 15, 2019

Teach. Join the Navy. Become a train conductor. Learn to code. Plenty of jobs out there.

Nov 17, 2019
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