People wondering whether they should quit their IB job to join the military

Romain-Mar's picture
Rank: Baboon | banana points 104

This post is inspired by a recent thread in which someone mentioned wanting to leave his cushy IB position at 26 to join the military as a junior officer. Apologies if it's in the wrong forum, moderators.

As someone who recently got out, it baffles me. To anyone in the same boat, I don't recommend leaving your job to join the military unless you've given it much, much, much thought & positively weighed the outcomes. Talk to some vets, find some friends who served, don't believe the Sunday football promos or war movies.

I went in as a super patriotic kid fresh out of college. I come from a military family and I never even thought of another option. I still love my country but it's a lot more nuanced. People think being in the military is experiencing a daily diet of the best parts of American Sniper mixed with Rambo.

Instead, you'll find that you do more of counselling your 18 yo new recruit from Idaho who just found out via Snapchat that his fiancee is cheating on him with some frat kid. It'll be sitting down with the kid till 2:00 Am trying to comfort him and still having to wake up at 5:00 AM. It'll be seeing some messed up sh8t in certain parts of the world. Anyone who's been deployed to Afghanistan & gone on a patrol knows what I mean. Something in your soul is irremediably touched/harmed when a 9 year old kid with dead and sad eyes tries to proposition you for you-know-what. When you're promised a posting to a certain base but it's changed last minute because someone's kid got the job instead, something in your desire to even be there will falter.

Also, everyone seems to think they'll become SEALS right away. It's so tough to become an elite soldier after a life of leisure living the good life on Wall Street that if you have the fortitude, determination and mental toughness to do that, I have no doubt in my mind you should just keep going on Wall Street: you'll make MD without a doubt.

I know this sound defeatist and like I hated my time in the military. I didn't. I liked some parts of it. I miss not having to wonder whether someone would be butthurt by simple directions. I'm still close to all the friends I made and some are truly like brothers. But if you have a great job, great career and think of joining the military to adorn your prestige obsessed path, think twice.

Investment Banking Interview Course

  • 7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. Crowdsourced from over 500,000 members.
  • Technical, behavioral, networking, case videos, templates. All included.
  • Most comprehensive IB interview course in the world.

Comments (26)

Dec 18, 2018

Thanks for your service man.

Jan 23, 2019

Thanks bud

Dec 18, 2018

We hire a fair amount of ex-military guys & they seem to fall into the same camp as you OP. Seems like a solid place to start a career though because all the ex-military guys I know have a great sense of work ethic. Never hear them complain and they're always focused on finding solutions instead of spewing bullshit about why something can't be done.

Jan 23, 2019

This! I am repeatedly frustrated by how soft and sensitive so many people seem to be in the civilian world. Also I see a lot more narcissistic leaders. Those who would be my biggest gripes with the civilian world

Dec 18, 2018

As an anecdote, I met a dude on a HBS military tour who spent 2 years as an analyst at an EB after finishing his undergrad at Stanford. He said fuck it and joined the Navy. He's been a SEAL officer for a few years and now he's mulling on getting out to go to B School.

So it can be done, however the guy is cut from a very different cloth than someone who comes on WSO looking for validation or advice from strangers.

I'm not going to pretend like my service was difficult or that I had a difficult time; it was actually excruciatingly boring with fun bits here and there. For the most part I enjoyed my time in, but I am very happy with the life that I am currently living.

I suggest that anyone who is having second thoughts about their career think twice before enlisting or commissioning.

    • 1
Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

Dec 18, 2018

THANK YOU! People were giving me shit for saying the same thing in a previous thread. If you really must join then sign up for the reserves or national guard. Even then, try to go for the least time on your contract (3-years?).

Dec 18, 2018

Agreed, the opportunity cost looks a lot different if e.g. you're in undergrad and can't line up a decent job offer. Then the officer -> business school -> finance/consulting/corporate job looks less circuitous.

Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

Most Helpful
Dec 18, 2018
Romain-Mar:

It'll be seeing some messed up sh8t in certain parts of the world. Anyone who's been deployed to Afghanistan & gone on a patrol knows what I mean. Something in your soul is irremediably touched/harmed when a 9 year old kid with dead and sad eyes tries to proposition you for you-know-what.

Wow man, sorry you had to deal with that. Seeing little kids having to suffer just because they were born in a bad situation... the world sucks sometimes. Thanks for your service.

    • 5
Dec 18, 2018

Maybe I'm just thick, but I actually don't know what is you-know-what?

Dec 19, 2018

Kids prostitution...

Jan 23, 2019

Thank you. It scars your soul.
But at the same time, we do a lot of humanitarian work that doesn't get the same publicity our f-ckups do. It's a way to give back and I try to superimpose the smiles of the happy Indonesian kids for example over some of the more jarring memories.
That being said, thank God or whatever you believe in that you were born somewhere or to someone that gave you a chance to be posting on here one day.

Dec 18, 2018

Not to mention having to watch your good friends die for Israel.

That part probably sucks the worst.

    • 1
    • 1
Dec 18, 2018

A bunch of folks from my fraternity days hit me up all the time about quitting their consulting/banking/legal job to join up. Here's what I tell them. If you're quitting your corporate job at age 26-29 to go to OCS or enlist you're pretty much locked into the military for life at that point since you'll sign a 4-6 year contract. So you'll come out the other end between ages 30-35 and as shitty as it sounds, the opportunities post-military start to dry up at that age. You have to view this as a permanent career move and be content that this may be your life for the next 20+ years with little exit opps. You'll also more than likely hate military life for the first 12-18 months post training while you're adjusting and the fact you left a cushy job will make it harder. I joined at age 22 after working for a year post undergrad and that transition was tough, if you're joining at age 26+ it'll be 10x harder. I've had a mostly positive experience in the service but ignoring the negative aspects of it when communicating it to potential officer candidates/recruits doesn't do them or in the military any service.

"We listen, if it feels good we shake."
"This town is nuts, my kind of place."
-WSMFP

    • 5
Jan 23, 2019

Nailed it. Recruiters who lie to meet their quotas are the worst. They make it harder for everyone

Jan 26, 2019

100%. The current system doesn't benefit anyone, unless they do their own research.

"We listen, if it feels good we shake."
"This town is nuts, my kind of place."
-WSMFP

Dec 18, 2018

I left investment banking after one year to join the Army as an officer in a combat arms role and it has been the best decision of my life. I went to a top target and like all my friends went immediately into IBD and absolutely hated it. Within 4 months of joining I had my officer candidate school packet submitted. There were some times in basic training where i immensely regretted my decision, but since commissioning I have greatly enjoyed my experience with the Army. I'm sure if in a few years I want to go back into investment banking I can, but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

    • 1
Dec 19, 2018

That's good stuff. There is so much to learn and experience in the military. I wouldn't trade my time in the Marines for anything either.

The other gigs will be there if/when you decide you're ready to transition again. The military is a young person's game though, so you made a good decision by leaving IB early.

Best of luck to you.

Dec 19, 2018

Thank you, I absolutely agree it's a young man's game. I went through OCS and basic with many people who joined in their late 20s/early 30s who were already having knee and back issues by the time they commissioned. A lot of older guys went in with the intention of branching something like finance or intelligence, but due to low PT scores were force branched into infantry or field artillery. I really doubt you could get promoted above major joining that late either and by that time you'd be too old to transition out.

    • 1
Dec 19, 2018

I spent nine years in the Marine Corps infantry, and am on the fence with this one. For a long time, I loved being a Marine, and wish everyone could understand what that felt like for me. At the same time, there were things I loathed (some mentioned in original post) and things that just kind of ate away at my soul on deployments.

People are always going to wonder what it's like on the other side though. Dudes that got a finance degree and then went to OCS are going to wonder what life would be like had they pursued an investment banking gig while waking their buddy up during the guy's only 45 minutes to sleep to make sure nobody cuts his throat while he shits in a bag for the 8th time that day because he has a stomach bug 16 days into an op. At the same time, a lot of guys will always wonder about the military because of the way it's glorified throughout our culture.

At the end of the day, I think people should do what they think will make them happy. If you aren't fulfilled by your finance career, be honest with yourself about what would make you happy, and pursue that. Just make sure you know what you're getting into.

Dec 19, 2018

The other day my family and I were waiting for a bus that was late and the kids were bitching. I told them don't join the military because that's about 80% of being a grunt lol.

I get where people are coming from, because even though I'd take the "cushy" IB job in a heartbeat, I already got to know what being a Marine is like, and I think it's natural to question how you'd cut it (in my case, I actually wonder how I'd cut it as a banker).

And I'm not being entirely fair to the Corps, but I do think the general advice in this thread is good, there's no wiggle room to give your two week notice if you hate it after 6 months, so be sure you know what you're doing.

Dec 19, 2018

Ha, as cliche as it is...hurry up and wait is definitely a thing.

I know what you're feeling. I got out in late 2016, and am in an MBA program now, wondering what life will be like post-school. Although, I'm pretty optimistic...school is going well, I work hard, and nobody will be trying to kill me, ha.

Dec 19, 2018

Army vet here. Agree with most of what's been said. I'll just add that in my experience most of the people complaining about their time in the military were probably horrible Soldiers / Marines / whatever. The military is not for everyone and you find that out in about two days after shipping. The problem is, like has been previously mentioned, you can't just quit. And those people that can't adapt to the lifestyle end up hating their lives the whole time. To add to that, the military 100% owns you and can make you completely miserable if you try to push back. We were reminded all the time that they were only legally required to give us three non-consecutive hours of sleep per night if it came down to it. I saw a guy that was forced to live in the laundry room (legit can't remember if they ever let him move back to his room) because he disrespected an NCO. I could add 20 more examples of stuff like that and so could anyone here.

TLDR: Most people complaining about the military couldn't cut it

    • 1
Dec 19, 2018

Yea, pretty spot on.

I'm not sure when you got out though, because I would argue that NCO can't get away with a lot of what they used to. When I got to my first infantry unit, a Sergeant might as well have been a god, and a Corporal was not to be messed with. NCOs had a lot of leeway. When I left the Marines, a lot of that had changed.

For the most part, I'd say your statement is correct about people who complain are generally those who were no good or couldn't hack it. You'll hear plenty of complaints from people who were stellar as well though. That being said, it's generally in private, in the company of other vets.

Jan 23, 2019

It's generally a lot more PC now.
That's both good and bad.
The good? Some people were going over the line. I remember this one girl got her period during Basic & the sergeant told everyone and laughed at her. That was a straight dick move and I still feel bad about that, all these years later.
The bad - you can't tell incompetent f-cks that they're well, incompetent f-cks now which makes the military even more bureaucratic than ever and rewards pencil pushers

Dec 24, 2018
Dec 26, 2018

Dayman?

    • 1