How to survive as a junior banker, from someone who’s done it

‘I’ve seen some of the most embarrassing imbeciles known to finance hold on to their seats’

It’s not about getting a promotion, nor even about earning a strong monthly bonus. For new recruits starting out as analysts, it’s just about surviving and getting by in one of the most vicious sectors around. Landing yourself a spot on one of those £40,000 a year grad schemes is only the start, as an industry veteran going by the name of iBanker has explained.

He’s written up his tips on how to avoid getting fired, regardless of your ability. In his own words, he’s seen the very worst employees hang on to their jobs and graduates from good universities get the cut right away.

Find a mentor right away

Like Matthew McConaughey’s character in Wolf on Wall Street passing on his coke habit and chest-beating chant, finding a guru is a sure-fire way to keep your job secure.

“I have seen some of the most embarrassing imbeciles known to finance hold on to their seats while other, more learned and capable young bankers were culled en masse like poultry in the aftermath of a bird flu epidemic. Upon close inspection one finds there is always a protector, usually a senior and influential banker, behind the scene casting a protective shadow over their subordinate. Where competition is fierce, currying favour is a fact of life.”

Making friends with your superiors is one thing, but pandering to them is another. Push it too far and they’ll see you for what you are.

“Flattered as veterans may be by sycophants who shower them with adulation, the former will not lift a finger to protect the latter when jobs are on the line. They make the king laugh for some time. When they cease to be funny, they get their head chopped off.”

Pick one and don't leave until they're your friend

Pick one and don’t leave until they’re your friend

Instead you should be more subtle. The iBanker suggests you should carefully build these relationships and then just hope they’re there for you in times of danger. Show you’re loyal whenever you can but don’t be excessive. Perhaps the most important tip is to boast a little, but only in achievements relating to the other analysts – basically giving your protector credit indirectly for hiring and managing well.

Learn to love the unexpected

The iBanker describes the scenes quite dramatically: “[No] man or woman can predict the course of his or her life, much less what happens within a bank, where there is a confluence of hyper-frenzied activity, magnified emotion and heightened self-interest.” Learning how to live in this atmosphere is one of the biggest tests for a new analyst. He added:

“In such an unpredictable environment, one is bound to be taken by surprise, repeatedly. Especially in the early days. And those shocks slowly grind you down. Hence making you more vulnerable to victimisation. Eventually, giving way to a firing or voluntary resignation.”

The key to success here is to never drop the ball and keep it together. The iBanker says:

“The strong, who survive, never become complacent. They are constantly alert. Even those of them who outwardly appear at peace. There is a reservoir of activity – machination, care and concern – running through their mind. They expect the unexpected. So much so that they learn to love it. The weak, on the other hand, at some point become self-satisfied. And as soon as they relax…well, they disappear.”

Don't become this

Don’t become this

Embrace the stress, but don’t take it too far

Stress is a part of every career, but obviously banking has more than its fair share. iBanker’s advice is to accept that it’s going to be bad, but it’s not forever.

“Some things are beyond your control and have already been decided. The sooner you accept that you are an insignificant part of a highly unpredictable universe, the sooner your temperament will equip itself to weather the storm you will face in banking life.”

Accept that you won’t be there forever. Dreaming of the day you quit will keep you going: there won’t be a “magic roundabout” roundabout forever.

“When you feel the job is no longer worth it, simply step away. I assure you that on your deathbed, the image of your line manager giving you a thumbs up after you pulled three all-nighters in a row won’t be one of them. Perhaps the look on his face as you’re seated across the table from one another after you hand in your resignation, pivot on one buttock and let out a massive fart goodbye causing his chin to practically hit the floor will.”

For more: check out the iBanker’s blog here, his guide, Breaking Into Investment Banking: An Unorthodox Approach, or his novel, The iBanker and the Golden Cage.