Post MBA IB associates, how did you know you could handle the life?

incomingmba2342's picture
Rank: Monkey | 42

I recently got accepted to a T-10 MBA program that places very strongly into BB and EB IB. Based on my interest in finance, and frankly the pay, right now I'm strongly considering targeting IB as my post-MBA career.

However, my concern and question for others that have gone through the same path, how did you know whether you could handle the IB lifestyle? I'm coming from a tech background, and my weeks generally range from 40-60 hours. Therefore I'm very used to things like being able to cook/eat dinner with my wife and having hobbies during the week. I've always been a hard worker and can picture myself grinding the hours out for the first few years so that I can set myself up for the life I want for my family, but have never experienced the 70+ hour week. So I'm concerned about getting to IB and being completely miserable, and then having missed the opportunity to pursue other options during my MBA (other primary path I am considering is consulting but it doesn't sound like the hours are much better there).

A broader question: post MBA IB associates, how is the quality of your life, and would you make the same career choice if you did it all again? Thank you!

Comments (77)

Most Helpful
Jan 29, 2020

Hey dude. I'm going to keep it 100, the lifestyle change will be extremely challenging for you.

I am a 3rd year post-MBA IB Associate w/ family who will be promoted to VP in a month. Here's what you can realistically look forward to:

1) No cooking or eating dinner with wife, or any hobbies during the week (except Friday night potentially). If this is a deal breaker for you, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 because it only gets worse.

2) Goodbye to tech company perks. No free food/drinks, no social groups, activism etc.

3) Weekend work. The general guideline at most firms is no work 9 PM Friday night - 9 AM Sunday morning -- unless it's for a live deal, at which point there are no rules. That being said, a lot of teams work through this time as well and expect you to be on call, unless you are Orthodox Jewish.

4) Immensely more stressful day-to-day. From what I understand, tech work basically consists of Googling, Stack Overflow, and sharing memes. Banking timelines and expectations will be much more intense by comparison. Generally you're expected to respond to emails within 5 minutes tops. You can have deliverables pretty much on a daily basis, so every day can feel like a sprint (using Agile dev lingo). You'll pretty much not know what you're doing for a full year so the learning curve will be high, and people much younger than you will run circles around you technically.

If I haven't scared you away yet, you may be a good candidate for post-MBA IB! Here are some of the pros:

1) Very little travel compared to consulting. If you were single, I would move this to a "Con." At least you'll sleep in the same bed as your wife 7 days a week, even if you're coming home at 2 AM and getting in to work again by 9 AM. Don't take this one lightly, because it's probably a key factor in keeping my marriage and fatherhood going.

2) Good / stable pay, if you're good, for 3 years. As long as you're in the top half of your class, there is very little chance of you being laid off as an Associate, and if you bust your ass and are top quartile, you have a path to VP and therefore potentially 5-6 years of post-MBA earnings before you're pressured to transition to revenue generation.

3) Learning curve puts your professional development into hyperdrive. It sounds stupid but it's the equivalent to joining some military unit and going through an extended training. You have no sleep, lots of pressure, and need to come together closely with your team to make things happen. Most of the actual work is mundane but if you have half of a brain to pay attention beyond the exact, specific task you're assigned to, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can learn about M&A and/or capital markets.

4) Exit options, there is a lot to say. They are simultaneously overrated and underrated by the community. It really depends on your background and what you want to transition into. That being said, anyone you talk to in industry who has been in banking before will immediately know the hardship you've endured and value you could bring.

Happy to expand further.

    • 64
Jan 29, 2020

Agree on the military comparison. Well said

    • 2
Jan 29, 2020

Thanks so much (and also to everyone else in this thread) for the great response! Honestly has helped put it in a better perspective. I don't care about all the tech job fluff, I'm looking for a job that's more demanding, and I don't have any activities during the week that I absolutely need to be doing. But, working late Friday, Sunday, and potentially Saturday during deals, doesn't really sound like what I'm looking for.

Learning much more heavily towards Management Consulting, I traveled every week in my last job and the travel didn't wear on me. I think I'm also just different in that I'd rather compartmentalize my work into the Mon-Thur onsite grind and miss being home every night of the week, rather than sacrifice the more consistent dedicated free time on the weekends. Regardless I'll look at all my options when I get to school.

Jan 29, 2020

I'd recommend trying to do as much research and networking/talking to friends before school and generally have an idea what path you're going to take. Of course info sessions are good and being in the actual mix of school is very helpful but the speed at which recruiting picks up is intense. You're barely at school a week or two and its on full bore. To get the most competitive jobs you typically can't be wavering between paths you need to be fully committed. It is lame but it is what it is. Many of your classmates come in with a defined goal and such an immense time is spent with coffee chats, events, etc. traveling to nyc if you dont go to columbia/nyu for networking etc. You have plenty of time before school starts so I'd really try to at least have a more defined idea of what you're gonna pick than showing up and figuring it out.

    • 2
Jan 30, 2020

Thank you for the thoughtful response here and in other threads. I'm attending an M7 school this Fall and have been struggling on deciding my post-MBA path. If you have any have any advice, whether it be on career or mindset changes for my circumstances, I'd really appreciate it.

My background is in sell-side finance and am still interested in markets (both private and public), but I value WLB more than most 25 y/o single dudes.
My priorities are:
Sleep & pursuit of my hobbies >= growing/learning professionally > prestige = money

The learning curve you mentioned which pushes professional development has been the main factor of whatever early career success I've had and I still want that for the future. I know I sound like a whiny millennial who wants his cake and to eat it too. But did you know of any roles that matched my priorities and interest in markets? Paths I'm considering are investment management (hard to get into and dying industry) and corporate development.

FLDPs have great work-life balance but I'm fearful of getting stuck in middle management and feel like I wouldn't be developing as much professionally.

Thank you and anyone else that may have some thoughts

    • 3
Jan 30, 2020

I would like to quickly add that if you're afraid of getting stuck in middle management, corporate development might not be the best place for you. I'm currently interviewing for a handful of CD roles and would say that a lot of people I've met and talked to have seen their career progression stagnate once they reached the director level. Even reaching the director level could take quite a bit of time as well depending on the company. Just wanted to give my two cents.

    • 2
Jan 30, 2020

It sounds like you would be a perfect fit for a FLDP.

You come across as someone who's smart and wants to learn, but not overly ambitious. I don't mean that in a bad way too. It's good that you know you're someone who values WLB and hobbies and other things outside of your career. As such, you should prioritize and pick the path that's best for you, but don't stress yourself out too much by trying to find the "perfect" fit.

    • 1
Funniest
Jan 30, 2020

What I wouldn't give to be in a non-revenue generating role again :s

Jan 30, 2020

you have some of the best comments on the site, +1

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

    • 1
Feb 3, 2020

I know.

Jan 30, 2020

IB > consulting

    • 1
    • 4
Jan 29, 2020

This is extremely accurate. Would only add that there's significant volatility in your work schedule with no clarity which is, for me, the worst part. You might think you have the weekend free but one email at 5:30p on a Friday could change everything... it's nerve-wracking at times.

    • 5
Jan 29, 2020

As someone who went the post-MBA consulting route, I'll add that while the hours might not be IB hours, you're either going to be on the road most of the week, or you'll be working long hours at your home office with your team - neither of which will allow you to cook dinner with your wife or have hobbies during the week. (Assuming you aren't talking about Federal Consulting)

To be honest, if those are two things you don't want to give up for the next 2-3 years, I'd probably look at careers other than IB/Consulting.

Array

    • 1
Jan 29, 2020

Agreed with this; the potential hybrid might be something like an LEK or similar M&A Consulting / due diligence shop. Relatively less travel as compared to strategy/ops consulting, although you do get the frantic timelines of the M&A processes without the commensurate IBD pay.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 29, 2020

Why then would one become a strategy consultant doing PE/m&a diligence when the hours are similar to banking and the pay is ~50% lower?
I'm guessing that the lack of weekend work is the main factor? Maybe wider set of exit opps is another?

Jan 29, 2020

I think this is one of those "if you have to ask . . " type of questions. If your personality/interests are particular enough that you wonder whether the lifestyle will work for you, it's a pretty sure sign that it won't.

There are always exceptions but generally speaking, the hype is real and the post MBA associate lifestyle is brutal. I actually think its even harder than the analyst lifestyle but those who disagree with me on that point will at least admit its roughly as hard. And its only a little better after making VP.

So to go into that life and have an additional hand or two tied behind your back (i.e. specific needs like wanting to be home a lot for dinner, or wanting to maintain hobbies, etc etc) . . I just think that's unlikely to work.

I did have one associate classmate who had a wife and kids already, and he made it work. But he was also extremely bright and loved the work. Reading about his industry coverage area was how he would spend his free time if he wasn't paid to do it. He also very, shall we say, connected to the man upstairs. So he had that zen-like calm 24/7. IMHO his circumstances are not common.

    • 7
Jan 29, 2020

The positive here is that during your MBA, you can investigate additional career options and network heavily to get a better understanding of what will work. The decision will become evident as you go through the process. If your school is recruiting at that level (BB/EB), I'm sure there are alums in other top finance spaces, and that there are many post-grad options and on-campus recruiting/networking events.
I definitely would say (as a woman here, not so many of us), it's something you'd agree on with your spouse before jumping in, you'll need the support and understanding to make it work. It can be lonely, I have had friends (wives) of I-bankers who described themselves as "single mothers"..
There are other IB shops and transaction-adjacent departments that are not as time intensive. Sure, experience not the same, but viable and maybe more enjoyable Commercial banking can also be a fantastic, lucrative option, with probably better long-term job security, and shouldn't be discredited as second class.
Network, talk to career center, investigate. You have some time. Congrats on the acceptance!

    • 4
Jan 30, 2020

Agreed^
OP talk with your spouse. I have a friend from school that was working 80+ hours a week in IB and his now separated. His (then) wife was cheating on him. I feel for the guy...

Greed is Good!

Feb 4, 2020

That's awful, but that's not necessarily the job and long hours. It's kind of become a semi-normal "thing" now, unfortunately. Sadly common.

    • 1
Jan 31, 2020
Shaynepunim:

Commercial banking can also be a fantastic, lucrative option, with probably better long-term job security, and shouldn't be discredited as second class.

Do you know of any Commercial Banking MBA programs? There's don't seem to be any. Either you have IB, corporate support, Finance or AM - but no Commercial Banking.

    • 1
Feb 4, 2020

I would not say there are any specific MBA programs for commercial banking/lending, but a typical finance MBA would be relevant. It is a combination of sales and credit analysis, and there may be a training program at a specific institution to then teach specifics. I have a friend who went into commercial banking, and he simply has an MBA in Finance.

    • 1
Jan 30, 2020

Just make sure you act like you really want it without a doubt. You'll need to do tons of informationals and don't ask things that imply you're not sure whether you want do banking. Save those for the career office.

KC

    • 2
Jan 30, 2020

I honestly would not recommend being a post-MBA associate to anyone that didn't do banking or something very comparable before business school. It's probably one of the most difficult jobs to do in banking, because you are expected to "lead" the analysts and drive execution, when 95% of 2nd / 3rd year analysts are more productive and efficient than post-MBA associates with no prior banking experience. The first year, most will be learning from experienced analysts and you are drinking from the proverbial fire hose - many don't make it TBH.

You are expected to have experience... without having experience. Precarious situation.

    • 3
    • 1
Jan 30, 2020

OP--I'm in almost exactly the boat as you (coming from corp strategy where work week is stressful at times but still 50-60 hours always, going to T10 MBA next year and will likely recruit for banking). The first response in this thread was great, honest detail so thank you @Synergy_or_Syzygy . Very similar to what IB club folks have told me at each school but even more direct.

    • 2
  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 30, 2020

Playing devil's advocate just a little bit:

This is your only realistic chance to break into banking. The beauty of the MBA is that you can spend a summer experiencing it without committing and see first-hand if you think it's for you. Worst case scenario you re-recruit (plenty of opportunity for FT recruiting in consulting, FLDP, etc.) with the confidence that you tried it and never have to wonder "what if."

    • 7
Jan 31, 2020

This is an excellent point. Interning in IB and re-recruiting for a different opportunity definitely won't be held against you as long as you have a good story for switching.

Array

    • 1
Jan 31, 2020

For getting a sense of what it's like , it's almost impossible to wrap your head around what it's actually like dealing with the hours and the pressure. I was a competitive athlete in uni, graduated with very strong grades in math/stats and spent 10 hours a week doing stats tutoring as my own business.

Needless to say, I thought of myself as a grinder with ambition. Surely I'd deal with the hours okay?

I did two internships at a BB, and I fucking hated it. Loathed it. I hated seeing my health deteriorate, not being able to take training seriously anymore and not having the ability to travel with friends/date as I pleased.

If you get a lot of satisfaction from daily pleasures like your hobby or spending time with your wife, I'd have a very serious think on whether the extra money really make up for it.

If you can do an internship prior, that's a great way to get a feel - if not, the fact that you're asking this question means that you'll likely enjoy life in banking less overall than other career options.

If you'd consider strategy/finance roles in FAANG instead (it was a great fit for me), shoot me a message.

Feb 2, 2020

One of your comments was "grind it out for a few years to set up life for family..."

Dangerous thinking, as a few years in banking in a major city won't get you set for life or anything close. In fact it will likely cause you to raise your financial expectations. Unless a few years is 7-10 years. And there is no guarantee the exit option you are envisioning is there at the end, vs the options afforded to you in b school.

I'm all for the approach of setting a realistic budget, comparing it to your "real" career and location desires and seeing how they sync up. Chances are your life will be fine with any traditional business career path coming out of an MBA, yes including FLDP.

Feb 4, 2020

I will acknowledge that, yes, any post MBA program should increase your financial quality of life and everyone should be "fine", but to play devil's advocate here: I think there is a sound argument that someone could go back to school, grind it out for 18 - 24 months (sign on bonus, stub bonus, full year bonus) and exit banking into a role where they will still have a higher title/make more than if they'd gone into some sort of FLDP or other role direct from the MBA program. That may just boil down to "fine/set up for life" being subjective to those defining it.

EDIT because I'm bored and wanted to add more context.

I currently feel that I do pretty well for myself. late 20's, no debt, make roughly $90k/yr. I'm sure if I continue on (what I consider) a slow/boring path work content wise & salary wise, I will be "fine", but because I find the work boring/slow/not important/don't see a clear path, I've started looking into IB. My thoughts are, (assuming I get in to my MBA program and use that pipeline into IB): I can go 'grind it out' for ~18-24 months, pull in upwards of $400-500K where as if I stayed here I'd make $180K. Factor out the MBA full debt (worst case, as my local school gives out a healthy amount of scholarship money) and I am still breaking even or making more money. I would currently plan to exit in 2 years (but hey life is crazy, I may be on track for VP and love it/decide to stay). Let's assume I leave at 2 years- I'm pretty confident that the 4 years (2 MBA + 2 IB) will put me on a much higher salary and title/responsibility vs had I stayed where I am currently ($90k for 4 more years, or even tried to change companies.

I realize some of this sounds superficial and that there's a few "if's", but wanted to expand a bit.

    • 2
Feb 4, 2020

Fully agree with this. I see this personally at my F500. Fresh LDPs out of their MBA are well behind on base salary and deferred compensation two years in compared to new hires who lateral from MBB/BB/EB after doing their tour of duty for two years. This is at the same corporate title.

There's just something about the prestige of having a top tier client services firm on your resume, along with the leverage you have when you move to corporate and negotiate a package.

    • 2
Feb 2, 2020

Few things (from the analyst perspective):

  1. If interested in IB, and you are able to get the Post MBA FT gig... do the work of an analyst for a year +. Analysts hate working with MBAs who are unable to tread water when thrown in the deep end.
  2. When working with a 2nd year Analyst, take instruction and do what you are asked. Don't be one of those "here are some comments" kinda ppl. They will look at you like you're an idiot.
  3. Your time will come. Once the 2nd year An. class heads to the buy-side and the new interns arrive, you can actually start doing what you were brought in to do.
    • 2
    • 1
  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Feb 2, 2020

Have MBA peers who purposefully looked at firms in smaller regional locations (HW/Baird/BlackArch) which seem to offer partial solutions to the problems posed above.

If you really do want to punch your ticket for a couple of years to be financially secure, low COL places such as Richmond/Charlotte go a long way vs. a NYC/SF situation.

Second (maybe this is naive), but the culture at these types of MM firms/locations seem to be more accustomed to people with families? IB is IB and it will never be easy, but I get the feeling they are more understanding about navigating family responsibilities.

It seems like it would benefit MBA associates who want to be in banking longer term to be thoughtful about meshing location/culture vs. chasing prestige when the exit opportunity set is so different from that of analysts.

    • 1
Feb 2, 2020

Can't confirm yet, but I have the same assumption on MMs. Culture fit and retention appear great, along with reasonable work/life integration (e.g., leaving office at a decent time to pick up kids or grab dinner with family, then log back on at home). Won't happen immediately, but once you earn your stripes, your work product will speak for itself versus facetime.

I continually hear these anecdotes from friends who started post-MBA and have stayed with the same MM firm, along with the associates, VPs, MDs of the firm I'll be joining. Clearly a self-selection bias, but retention is a good signpost.

    • 2
Feb 3, 2020

Aside from the firm you are joining (to maintain your anonymity) what other MM firms would you say fall in this bracket?

Progress is impossible without change...

Feb 4, 2020

Do not join with the assumption that MMs are "banking lite" - yes, some firms make culture a bigger priority, but at the end of the day, at all these firms when the shit hits the fan, it still hits the fan. In some cases, working at an MM can actually be worse than at a BB because you have so much less support / fewer resources.

    • 4
    • 2
Feb 3, 2020

Corporate/Commercial banking in low COL city > Post-MBA IB selling your life away in NYC. At least from my limited knowledge.

If you're going to do post-MBA IB for the money at least go to a place where you can save a ton of it like Texas/Charlotte etc. as others have mentioned.

    • 2
    • 2
Feb 3, 2020

For those who MSed my post. Quick COL calculator using nerdwallet will tell you 250k in NYC (Brooklyn) is roughly equivalent to $135k in Charlotte and $150k in Dallas. Pretty sure you pretty easily get to that point after a few years in commercial/corporate without the lost earnings from the MBA. Granted, the exit opps aren't as good and the earnings growth isn't as robust but unless you're gunning for MD (which very few will actually get), what's the issue with what I said? Genuinely curious.

From my perspective, IB in NYC is almost a rip-off unless you get that nice buyside position afterwards. And even then IB analysts in "2nd tier" cities can also get to the buyside, especially if you're in a city where your vertical is top-tier like Energy in Houston.

    • 3
    • 1
  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Feb 4, 2020
    • 5
    • 2
Feb 4, 2020

In commercial/corporate, you don't necessarily need exit ops like in IB. Many people stay on for many years, even decades. It can be a very nice long-term career, not nearly as subject to burn out. Slow and steady may end up being equivalent in the long-term.

Feb 3, 2020

I knew I could handle the life when I made my platform and group selection based on interactions with the team and consideration of the broader firm's offering in lieu of selecting a platform atop the latest league table.

    • 4
Feb 4, 2020

What were some of the things that were revealed to you in those conversations that the league tables did not tell you? There are some IB firm rankings that try to take into account work-life balance, among other factors.

Feb 5, 2020

My comment was originally intended to suggest that work, and the inevitable hours, are more enjoyable when you and your coworkers are collegial. For me, this was resisting the urge to jump on the specialty boutique craze of PJT, Evercore, and Moelis and their "prestige" when I felt my personality and long-term career interests aligned with other platforms.

For example, do senior bankers appear to lead fulfilling personal lives outside of work? Do they have children? When are they leaving? Are they logging back on from home? Given answers to these questions, how are they perceived by co-workers? Does this align with your personal and professional aspirations? Constant self reflection is needed here.

    • 5
Feb 4, 2020

I spent my youth being in miserable conditions in a combat arms role in the Army.

Banking was an improvement.

As an edit.

I really do enjoy the field however. In specialized units, detail is death. Free running ends on equipment in Airborne operations can kill you or someone else. You track every ounce of kit, every nuance of a plan and area to operate. So the level of detail I like to reflect as well as organization comes naturally. My bosses really like it.

I get treated like an adult. No one really bothers me. No one is shooting at me and I'm not breaching doors or anything insanity anymore. Team makes everything. I cover an interesting vertical and all the way up to my MD are really awesome and I can be candid and open with them. It goes both ways really. I've had offers for more money and won't leave due to my report chain. There is a nature and nurture component to it.

    • 4
Feb 7, 2020

On the specific question of " how did you know whether you could handle the IB lifestyle?":

I didn't know. And I would posit that you can't really answer that affirmatively ex ante. Banking is hard and takes sacrifices, and you probably won't be able to say the sacrifices are worth it until after you've made them. I think they've been worth it to me, they won't be worth it to everyone.

I joined the army out of college and spent the better part of a decade as an infantryman, and served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had no idea then if I would be able to "handle" it. Doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying. Same goes with my decision to go into banking. I had no realistic idea when I showed up to my MBA program whether the disruptive aspects of a career in banking would be worth it.

Feb 7, 2020
Comment
Feb 7, 2020
Feb 8, 2020