Prestige is regional - Choosing Walmart over Goldman Sachs

numbermassager's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,083

I was recently at a conference and met a former Goldman IB-er who works in PE now. He's originally from Arkansas and was telling me that his parents are exponentially prouder of his big brother, who works in some type of corporate strategy function at Walmart, than they are of him for breaking into PE & the most prestigious investment bank in the world. He told me that working at Walmart Corporate in Arkansas is like the holy grail for most people from there - although they're about split half and half between hating Walmart and loving Walmart.

As someone who works for a F500 headquartered in a small state, I've seen similar scenarios, where a kid will hustle to get a job with my company and turn down T2 consultancies like OW/Deloitte. But it still shocked me that his parents feel like the other kid is more successful.

Is it just general lack of knowledge about the professional services industry? Are there any examples of similar situations WSOers have encountered? What's the regional "I made it" job where you're from?

Comments (36)

Funniest
Apr 17, 2019

I don't typically do stuff with the sole intention to make my parents proud.

Apr 17, 2019

Agreed

Apr 17, 2019

As I've gotten older, I've begun understanding how stupid "adults/parents" are. I love mine, but they wanted me to work my 60k/yr engineering job right out of school for life. I said f*** that and moved companies for a 50% raise and now work in Corporate Strategy. I'll move back to that same engineering job for 120k+ next year as I want to be closer to my family. 4 years = 2x the salary. Life's a math problem y'all.

Most people are idiots.

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Apr 17, 2019

People like what they know. Most people know walmart, so a company man at walmart is A+. Most people do not know what pe/ib/E&F/Family office does etc.

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Most Helpful
Apr 17, 2019

By definition, parents represent a different generation. Their knowledge, experience, likes / dislike are based on their generational rules.

My dad used to drive me crazy. He was a company man, blah blah blah. He also commuted via train and when the 5:15 train was ready to go, he was on it. Never brought work home. Leave it to Beaver stuff. When I left an IBM computer sales job where I was doing well to become a 1099 insurance based financial planner he thought I was nuts! Leave a good salary, benefits, etc. Fast forward 10 years and he kept on asking me (even though I was doing well running my own business) when I was going to get my MBA (oldest brother HBS, middle bro PhD in STEM). I would jokingly reply that if I need it, I'd hire someone.

Fast Forward another 20 years and the world has changed at a rapid clip. Middle bro is a very successful consultant but always has kept weird hours (like does a lot of work in the middle of the night). He gets the kids to school, takes meeting, picks the kids up, etc. Now my mom is the one driving me crazy saying, "Your brother can't work from home. His wife needs to be more involved with the kids, etc." I keep on telling her apparently he can do whatever he wants because they keep on paying him and letting him live on his terms.

Prestige is meaningless. The world has changed. Technology has made prestige way more meaningless quickly. think about the word Prestige. It's outward facing. How do others feel about your X. I prefer inward facing. How do I feel about my X. As long as I'm good with it, could care less what anyone else thinks. Really!

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Apr 17, 2019

This is such a great answer, honest and thoughtful reflection.

"How do I feel about my X. As long as I'm good with it, could care less what anyone else thinks. Really!"

This needs to be highlighted again. Unfortunately our millennial / Gen Z+ generation (I'm an early 30's millennial) is all about what everyone else thinks, where your worth is fueled by social media. Even worse, your worth is determined by what is most broadly appealing versus what matters to a select few people. So this creates a race to the bottom and fuels an even more prestige-hungry generation that's been fed this via smartphone from elementary school. Yikes.

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Apr 24, 2019

Prestige is not meaningless. Its coverage has simply changed with time and region (as OP stated).

For instance, to you - being a work from home house-husband is prestigious enough.

Another example, in SoCal, dropping out after 2-3 years of college to launch a 5-10 people "start up" is infinitely more prestigious than graduating to become a TMT coverage analyst. Being a FengShui consultant is infinitely more prestigious than a Management Consultant. Being a social justice activist/protest organizer is infinitely more prestigious than a decorated military officer. Having X thousand/million followers on Instagram is infinitely more prestigious than executing a $X million/billion LBO. So on and so forth.

The basic element of prestige and the pursuit of it will always be there. In essence, it's what drives people to do what they do. Even the 25 year old unemployed drug dealers who never left campus and brag about "bro I plug the football team with xanies, I'm my own boss yo" - in their view, that lifestyle is prestigious.

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Apr 17, 2019

What this really means, and I've said this countless times, prestige doesn't mean shit. If someone really care about prestige, this means they're very concerned with others' perceptions of their career and life. If someone cares that much about prestige, they're super insecure.

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Apr 17, 2019

Where I'm from, there's also one company everyone likes and it is a heavy blue collar town, so working for corporate is like working for Willy Wonka or something. It's seen as the golden ticket and families fight to be able to get their kids a job there after college, when they could simply move to New York and make more money

Apr 17, 2019

The professional services industry is small, insular, shielded from public view and somewhat cryptic. Community colleges and state schools don't serve as pipelines so there's minimal exposure. You can't expect the average bloke off the street to understand the appeal of a hedge fund when their vision of success has been informed by TV shows and 1960s era HBS grads (typically corporate officers at F500 firms). These people often think that investment bankers and the guy who got them their variable annuity do the same thing!

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Apr 17, 2019

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Apr 17, 2019

"Prestige" is an excuse to pay you less. Can't believe how many morons give a fuck about prestige instead of money and learning opportunity.

Apr 22, 2019

underrated comment. think about all the diplomats and such working for 70-100k a year when they could easily make 300+ working corp law.

thots and prayers

Apr 22, 2019

"Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power. In this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn't see the difference" - Frank Underwood

Fictional character, yet true. Prestige, power and money often intertwine. Take your pick.

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Apr 19, 2019

It's pretty simple.. high finance, high end professional services and high tech industries are insular and elitist by design.

Something like 60% of VCs come from Harvard or Stanford. 20-25 law schools supply >60-70% of new associates to top law firms. Top tech companies are the most represented employers after prof services/finance at most ivy league schools. Consulting firms are almost uniformly filled with top MBAs/PhDs/JD/UG grads

How do you think someone in Bumfuck, Idaho is going to even come across any of these people? Read: They won't. Unless you're motivated enough to find a site like this as a kid or you grew up around WASPy or upwardly mobile families (and the minority analog of those) in the boarding/magnet school circuit or ended up at a top tier undergrad you're just never going to know about this world because as far as you're concerned it doesn't exist,

The closest you'll get is maybe hearing about so-and-so's daughter/son getting a job at ACME, Inc HQ in something-or-other division or your aunty Sue getting hassled by insurance salesmen. Or the news funnelling down propaganda about the financial crisis. To each their own. How are you meant to appreciate "prestige" in the corporate world if you don't even know what it looks like? To these folks, their doctor or small town lawyer or kid who works at Lockheed Martin/GM in engineering are way more "prestigious" than the HYPSM -> GS/MS -> BX/TPG -> HSW folks.

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Apr 20, 2019

Excellent takes in both this thread and the one on "why not finance majors?"

Apr 22, 2019

This example just shows that some people aren't familiar with professional spheres such as finance. I'm a very practical person so I don't care about prestige for prestiges sake but prestige has very practical benefits. Having Goldman, Harvard, or McKinsey on your resume opens up doors that state U and enterprise Rent-A-Car or SLC back office just do not. Those doors lead to much more lucrative opportunities. So yeah, prestige still matters.

Apr 22, 2019

IMO the ultimate "I made it" job is not a job but entrepreneurship. Nothing is more "prestigious" than complete ownership of your own day. I have way more respect for a self-made fracking services owner who went from $0-100m+ in net worth than a managing director at an energy investment bank. True value-add is being a skilled operator and there is way more demand than supply for these people.

As far as where I grew up - I grew up in a hyper competitive "super zip" routinely at the top of the list for wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. The ultimate aspiration in terms of career prestige is becoming a top specialist doctor (orthopedics, ENT, anesthesiologist, etc...), high finance (investment banking, private equity, commodities trading, etc...), or corporate law firm partner.

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Apr 22, 2019

k lol

Apr 22, 2019

Are you sure PE is more prestigious than Corporate Strategy at WalMart?

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Apr 22, 2019

That's a good question. I think Goldman + PE is, simply because of the optionality that track gives you.
But ultimately, as was pointed out in some thoughtful answers above, it doesn't matter

Apr 22, 2019
numbermassager:

What's the regional "I made it" job where you're from?

In my hometown, that would be the Gold Level of the latest multi-level-marketing pyramid scheme.

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Apr 22, 2019

are we from the same area

Apr 22, 2019

Prestige only really matters if other people know what it means. A lot of times, people on the outside of circles don't know what things mean. It's kinda like cars, does it really matter if you have an Aston Martin if no one knows how much it costs? Would you be able to tell a $400 steak from a steakhouse vs one purchased from the grocery store prepared the same way?

There are certain places in the country where people don't really know the different levels of finance. Maybe they know GS or JPM, but might not know a Jefferies, Citadel or Bally. In some inner cities or small towns, they only really know how to get famous through sports or entertainment. They don't really know doctors/lawyers/IBers, so it's kinda hard to go that route.

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Apr 24, 2019

i have been on wso for a year and i don't even know wtf bally stands for

May 2, 2019

Gonna assume they mean Balyasny

Apr 22, 2019

Prestige is not relative.

The fact that most people in a given area consider working at Walmart corp offices superior to working in IB at GS or JPM does not mean the former is "more prestigious." By definition, the masses do not determine what is and is not prestigious. Like so-called "high fashion," (someone mentioned Bally above) prestige emanates from the top down.

Prestigious professions may be well-known and respected (doctor, lawyer, high-ranking politician, etc.) by the population at large, but whether they are or not has no bearing on their actual prestige, which, as stated, is determined by the 1%/elites/nobility/intelligentsia of society. Indeed, one could argue that many of the most prestigious professions (investment banker, Federal Reserve Chairman, film producer, venture capitalist, diplomat) are NOT widely known or revered by society at large and that this makes them, in some ways, more prestigious than those that are.

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Apr 22, 2019
numbermassager:

What's the regional "I made it" job where you're from?

Running your own kebab shop
Eastern Europe ya dig

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Apr 22, 2019

I've commented about this before. But I had an offer to work in a smaller, non NYC, ER shop right out of college. I also had an offer to go through an FLDP at a top ranked health system. Every person I knew was shocked I'd even consider the ER position because everyone could conceptualize the health system and either had received care there or knew someone who had. At the end of the day, I took the health system job for a myriad of reasons and family/friends often made comments about me being a big deal.

Meanwhile, a guy I knew who broke into IB in NYC was consistently asked why he didn't just stay in our hometown and work at a bank there. Most everyone thought he was a bank teller.

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Apr 22, 2019

When I got my first gig in investment banking my parents thought I was going to be a bank teller and they tried to talk me out of it. I tried explaining what it really was, but they didn't really get it (years later I'm still doing M&A stuff and they kind of get it). I love them to death, but one has to discount the opinions of people who aren't informed.

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Apr 22, 2019
zMaverick:

one has to discount the opinions of people who aren't informed.....

TO ZERO

Unfortunately, most people are uninformed about most things. Find a mentor and/or a circle of trust that you can bounce ideas off. Not random family members or people from the neighborhood you grew up in. WSO would give better advice than them.

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Apr 23, 2019

I can't emphasize this enough.

Apr 22, 2019

Prestige is a dumb term I self consciously have clung to while advancing in my career. Ive only worked for F500 companies or well-recognized nonprofits (i.e. Gates Foundation, Peace Corps, Livestrong pre Lance Armstrong doping scandal, etc.) my whole life.

It would really take a lot for me to leave at this point and go to a no-name thing. At least at places like GS (or Walmart corporate) you have a brand name to cling to even if the experience is shit. When you go to a place without that name (like boutique consulting firm that has you menially press buttons in a processing system all day), if you have nothing to show for it you are SOL in terms of getting recognized or moving forward.

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Apr 17, 2019

Not suggesting you're not happy doing what you do where you're doing it...but are you saying if you didn't enjoy your situation, you wouldn't improve it by moving to a more satisfying role at a lessor or no name firm? So is your identity tied to the brand? If so, just be careful because you may love the brand but, generally speaking, the brand won't love you back. Hard lesson to learn when the brand gets acquired and the soldier doesn't.

Apr 22, 2019
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Apr 23, 2019
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