It’s Friday afternoon and you can't wait for drinks with friends. You're about to turn your laptop off when...wait! A last-minute please fix: "the client needs it by Monday morning!", your manager says. It’s going to be a working weekend. Another one.
It's at times like this that you realize that your lifestyle trade-off is just not worth it. I coach junior investment bankers who want to change their careers, and their reasons for not leaving the industry are often the same. Quitting investment banking is often easier said than done.
Excuses I've been given by juniors at major U.S. banks include the fact that mothers don't want people to leave, that lower salaries equate to a loss of status; and that it's hard to walk away from a job that so many other people want to do.
I used to give similar answers myself, before I mustered the courage to take the leap.
Let's bust the 5 most common myths about quitting investment banking:
Myth #1: Fear of a salary cut
At best this is an assumption. Will leaving banking really cut your pay? What about joining a VC, hedge fund, start-up, or tech?
Actually, this is just procrastination. When my clients reflect on what they really want from their next career, a 6-figure salary rarely makes it to the top ten. Yet, they allow money to make themselves miserable. What would happen if you earned less? Often times the real issue is myth #2.
Myth #2: What will people think about me?
IB gives you status and...FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). We fear that if we lose our status, people will think that we are “losers”.
If you give others the power to define what success is, will you ever be good enough? This goes hand in hand with imposter syndrome. Inherently, you don’t feel good enough and so you force yourself to stay in a job that everybody else glorifies. Is that really working for you?
Myth #3: What if I fail?
Are you sure you're not failing already? Most of my clients don’t have a life outside of IB and live for the weekends. Some of them take sick leave as they are dealing with work-related anxiety and depression.
If you're accepting a lack of fulfillment, is this not the definition of failure? Taking a well-planned and calculated risk will give you the confidence to say, “I am doing the best that I can to get what I want in my life”.
Myth #4: it must be a big jump
Most bankers assume that if they decide to change careers, it will mean quitting their job the next day and doing something like launching a risky business in an exotic country. This is not true. Some of my IB clients take stepping stone jobs that will give them the skills, confidence, and time they need to transition to their chosen careers.
If on a scale from 1 to 10 you are fulfilled to a level of three, moving up to a six is already an improvement of 100%.
Myth #5: I don’t have any transferable skills or talents
Some people in banking presume they can't do anything unrelated. But remember - you went to amazing schools, passed the toughest interviews, and thrive by solving challenging problems. It's wrong to think you can't learn anything new.
In the post-COVID era, any course, tool, and expert is literally at our fingertips. There is no magic wand to effect a career change. But you can look at what makes you feel fulfilled, develop a plan, and work towards it.
Finally, most IB professionals confess that IB is not a fulfilling career for them. However, having started in the industry, they're not sure that it’s really worth getting out of it.
Do you remember the definition of sunk cost fallacy in your Economics 101? Let’s review it: “Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985).”
Is it worth spending your life in this way?
Claudio Antonini is a certified career coach hired by unfulfilled investment banking and financial professionals who want to find a career they love to start living the life that they really want. He spent 10 years in corporate finance in London at BNP Paribas, Fiat Chrysler, British Airways, and SGN, before founding his coaching business Time to Quit Finance & Banking.
Photo by Dexter Fernandes from Pexels