How To Become The Laughing Stock Of Your Wall Street Office

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What if you knew the exact steps to ensure you’d never be put on good projects, not learn anything in your first year, and always be resentful once you start working as an investment banker?

Ok, now you probably think I’m crazy.

You don’t want any of that to happen to you.

But knowing how it happened to one of my co-workers when I started a few years ago – now that might be something you’d be interested in.

A Long Time Ago, In An Office Far, Far Away

The place was my former office, and the time was my first day of work as an investment banker.

Everyone had just finished training, and we were about to begin our journey into the land of all-nighters, pitch books, and (hopefully) some deals as well.

Despite the frantic pace of the investment banking lifestyle, your first day is usually calm as you introduce yourself to everyone and learn how your office works.

If you’re smart you take advantage of it and get in some quality internet surfing time, maybe even picking up some furniture for your apartment along the way.

But not everyone is smart.

Step 1: Get bored and start incessantly instant messaging and calling your friends, asking for work.

One of my new Analyst friends just couldn’t take the slow pace of the day.

So rather than indulging in leisurely internet surfing, he started asking everyone around the office for work.

Hint: I mentioned previously that as a summer intern, you want to be proactive and take on responsibility. You should tone this down a bit as a full-timer, especially on your first day, or else… well, just keep reading.

Step 2: Get really, really bored and start asking the staffer for work.

My friend couldn’t extract enough work from the Analysts or Associates (and why would they give the new guy anything substantial?) so he went directly to the source: the staffer.

If you’re smart you avoid the staffer, especially when it’s Friday at 4 PM. Or when it’s your first day.

But not everyone is smart.

At this point, my friend almost saved himself simply because the staffer was on a call and his door was closed.

Step 3: Email the staffer and let him know you’re bored and want to work on “Cross-Border China Deals.”

Not taking the closed door as a cue to stop his quest for more work, my friend decided to email our staffer instead and not only ask for work, but also indicate a preference for type of work.

Yes, that’s right – he wanted to work on “cross-border China deals.”

Forget about just standard cross-border deals or just one Chinese company buying another… it had to be cross-border.

Step 4: Sit idly by and eat lunch while your pissed off staffer contacts your MD and lets him know about you.

Having not received a response from anyone and starting to think that there were no cross-border China deals to go around, my friend panicked and did the only thing he could: eat lunch.

(This was before we discovered Starbucks)

My friend was still under the impression that everything was ok – see no evil, hear no evil, right?


Step 5: Take call from pissed off MD and explain to him that you don’t want to get fired.

It would be embarrassing if you managed to get laid off before layoffs started, but my friend almost did it on our first day.

It’s quite awkward to explain to one of the most senior bankers in your group that you are, in fact, enthusiastic about working on their team and that you’re interested in more than “cross-border China deals.”

But it’s even more awkward for everyone else to find out about the conversation 10 minutes later and keep talking about it for weeks afterward.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Unfortunately, this one didn’t end well for my friend. As a result of this one incident, everyone formed a negative impression of him from day one.

It’s possible to fix early gaffes (just wait until I recount some of my own mistakes when I first started), but it’s easier to avoid screwing up in the first place.

Lesson Learned

So if your first day of work as an investment banker is coming up soon, make sure you:

  1. Don’t ask for work on day one. It’s supposed to be slow at first.
  2. Don’t harass your staffer asking for work.
  3. Don’t mention anything about cross-border China deals. Not even if you’re working in Beijing.