As one of the top career choices for new graduates, investment banking tends to tempt many. The allure of a six-figure salary in your early 20s and being immersed in Wall Street culture can be enticing when you're fresh out of business school. But even if you possess the rare combination of education, experience and enthusiasm that could land you a coveted investment banking gig at a bulge bracket firm, below are seven reasons why this may not be the right path for you.
1. You Strive for a Work-Life Balance
Investment banks are notorious for their demanding hours, with 100-hour work weeks being the norm for entry-level investment banking analysts. The tragic deaths of three junior investment bankers a few years ago focused attention on the marathon hours that they worked before their demise.
In response, a few major banks officially cut the number of hours worked by junior bankers. Nevertheless, in a competitive culture where putting in extra-long hours is regarded as a badge of honor, a 9-to-5 routine is pretty much unheard of. If you strive for a work-life balance, investment banking is not the field for you.
2. You Wilt Under Stress
Here’s a typical workday for an investment banking analyst: the analyst works frantically into the night and wee hours of the morning to complete a pitch book, rushes home in the morning to shower and change, and then heads straight back to the office for the meeting.
In such high-pressure situations where there are multiple competing deadlines, the ability to not just cope, but thrive under pressure, is extremely important. If you wilt and wither in such situations, you may need to consider a less stressful field than investment banking.
3. You Have a Relaxed Approach to Life
If you don't believe in getting needlessly stressed about anything—and that includes not getting stressed about work—investment banking is not the career for you. If you do your best to meet a deadline when you deem it reasonable, but feel compelled to speak out and object when you see it as unreasonable, this field is not for you. If you're not OK with working tirelessly without complaint, no matter how massive the task, this field is not for you.
4. You Possess a Rebellious Streak
You speak your mind and have a somewhat rebellious streak that prevents you from following orders without question. This may not be welcomed by your investment banking superiors, who are used to unquestioning obedience from their subordinates.
5. You Do Not Have the Right Skill Set
You managed to bluff your way through several rounds of interviews and a test or two on financial modeling, but you are far from being a wizard at Excel. Time management is also not your forte, and you have been guilty of procrastination on a few occasions. This means that investment banking is not for you.
6. You Do Not Want to Be a Career Investment Banker
Perhaps, you do not want wish to spend the next 10 years climbing the investment banking ladder but would prefer to explore other areas such as equity research or portfolio management. The thought of preparing endless pitch books and presentations for at least the next two years as an investment banking analyst—all for the reward of becoming an investment banking associate—is not one you find very appealing.
7. Money Isn't Everything
You do not subscribe to the old saying, "Money isn't everything; it's the only thing." While this is not meant to imply that all investment bankers only care about money, the ability to eventually make a lot of it is one of the primary motivators for those who can ride out the harsh working conditions. If making money isn't a key driver for you, look to another career.
The Bottom Line
If you possess even one of the above traits, investment banking may be a poor career choice for you. But there are plenty of other choices that will be suitable for you—careers that won't come at the expense of your social life or sanity. Conduct an honest self-assessment to find a more fulfilling and rewarding career path.