There are lots of critical skills you need to succeed on Wall Street. It helps to understand market forces. A facility with numbers is useful.
Having a feel for group dynamics is necessary to succeed on trading desks and deal teams. Superb time management, verbal acuity, and judgment are all important.
But, mostly, what you need to do is avoid the things that will destroy your career. And most of the things that will destroy your career go under the general heading of “people.”
I asked NetNet reporter Ash Bennington to look back on his years on Wall Street—where he was a vice-president at Credit Suisse and BB&T—and assemble a list of the people you need to avoid. I thought there might be three or four. I was way off. Ash returned with a list of 25 people to avoid.
You might want to print this out and carry it with you. When you meet someone new, scan the list. Decide if they are someone to avoid. Alternatively, you should take a look at the list and ask if you are on it. If you are, well, don’t be surprised when your colleagues start avoiding you. — John Carney
- Avoid the guy who calls you ‘Chief.’ He doesn’t remember your name.
- Avoid the guy who went to Hotchkiss and Yale and wears Nantucket reds during the summer. He doesn’t think you belong.
- Avoid the dim-witted back-slapping managing director. He’s not as smart as you are—but he’s been throwing guys like you under the bus since you were in grade school.
- Avoid the consultant hired by the dumb managing director to do his maths for him. Not only will he throw you under the bus, he’s smarter than you are.
- Avoid the guy who always wants you to be his alibi when he cheats on his wife. (“Hey man, is it cool if I tell Kathy that we’re going fly fishing in Canada this weekend?”). No, dude: It’s not cool.
- Avoid the guy who keeps failing the CFA Level 1. He’s looking for someone to blame.
- Avoid the girl who cries at her desk. (You can ignore my advice on this one—but either way, you won’t make that mistake twice.)
- Avoid the guy who offers his clients ‘a very special opportunity’ to invest in anything. He has a problem with cocaine.
- Avoid any man who has floppy hair after age 30—he’s a complete toolbox.
- Avoid the guy who throws his phone across the trading floor whenever his positions go south. He’s an angry dude, and the more time you spend with him the more reasons he’ll find to dislike you.
- Avoid anyone who tells you that you should relax and have a couple of drinks—at 9:15 on a Tuesday morning. You’re not cool enough to hang out with this guy.
- Avoid anyone who won’t relax and have a couple of drinks—at 9:15 on a Thursday night. They’re not cool enough to hang out with you—and ultimately they’ll resent you for it.
- Avoid any broker who tells you his client is going to DTC in 50MM in securities from Europe and he needs to borrow a C-Note. Just for the weekend. And this is the last time.
- Avoid the banker who never seems to close a deal but still manages to remain employed. He’s got something ugly on somebody—and you don’t want to be involved.
- Avoid anyone who tells you to ‘take one for the team’. He got where he is by convincing dopes like you to jump in front of an oncoming train.
- Avoid the guy who tells you, “Seriously, all I do is work and then go home and lift.” He’s telling you the truth—and he’s as dumb as a stone.
- Avoid anyone who sits within eye-line of your desk: They know what time you show up and what time you leave—and chances are they think you’re a lazy punk.
- Avoid anyone who is 10 years older than you are—and is still more junior in the reporting structure. He hates you more than you could ever imagine.
- Avoid the guy who posts Facebook pictures of himself getting arrested at the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. The guy is fearless—and he thinks you’re a complete coward.
- Avoid the guy who hangs his suit coat on the back of his chair to show off his suspenders. He either still thinks it’s 1985 or he’s trying to compensate for something.
- Avoid the guy who can drink all night, take a shower, and come into the office as crisp as a $100 bill. He’s got an oxlike constitution—and it will be fatal to your career to try to emulate his example.
- Avoid the guy who keeps telling you: “Without the back office, you overpaid clowns wouldn’t even have a job.” He’s right—but you don’t need to hear it.
- Avoid the guy who won’t share his Adderall: It just speaks to his character.
- Avoid anyone on Wall Street dumb enough to pick a fight with Bess Levin.
- Avoid the guy who gets drunk and loves to brag about never losing in arbitration: He’s going to get indicted. (Trust me on this one.)