An outsider’s view of investment banking.

From my blog stats I see that a few people have gotten here by searching for something having to do with ibanking (actually, the last one was “ibanking hate my job,” which is pretty sad). I’ve only actually mentioned investment banking once, I think, so random Google searches win again. Even though this blog has nothing to do with ibanking, I’m going to write about it, because I have an opinion on it.

When I graduated college, my boyfriend of the time, whom I’ll call IBanker, went into ibanking (bet you didn’t see that one coming!). I’d been with him for over two years by then, so I’d known about his career plan. He moved to New York City, where basically every ibanking job in the world is, and started with a very good investment bank. I debated following him there, but after a not-abundantly-fruitful job search, I ended up moving somewhere else.

We both thought two years was a decently solid base for a relationship, plus I thought I’d probably be moving in about a year to pursue medical school or something else, so the long-distance aspect seemed like a temporary thing, and not a big problem. And at first, it wasn’t. He couldn’t get away often for entire weekends because of work, but there’s very easy public transportation to NYC from here, so for the first few months I was fine with visiting him. We probably had about a 5:1 me:him ratio for weekend visits, but it seemed okay to me. He would take as much time off as possible when I came down on weekends (though I’d occasionally have to go with him into the office to finish something quick), and during the week we’d talk on the phone almost every day.

As time went on, IBanker got bigger projects at work. They were major deals, and I knew his resume was getting more prestigious by the minute, but it also meant he started working 100-hour weeks or so. (Yes, I know, around the same number of hours that a first-year medical intern works. Great.) Anyway, our phone calls all began to occur while he was at the office. Our conversations were punctuated with things like, “Hold on one sec while I figure out this spreadsheet” and “Why isn’t this working?! — oh, I see.” IBanker began to have very little to talk about besides work. Meanwhile, I was expanding into my new life and new job, meeting new people, going out to explore the neighborhood, etc., and had less and less to talk about with him.

Occasionally I would suggest that maybe ibanking wasn’t the best career path. I’d brought it up a few times while we were still in college, and now that he was in the thick of it, I tried not to whine, though who knows if I succeeded. I remember one of our conversations about it pretty clearly. It probably started off the way most of our conversations proceeded — him complaining about having to work so much, and how much it sucked, basically.

“I hate to see you this unhappy,” I said. “I wish you would just quit and do something else, or at least tell your supervisors they’re giving you too much work.”

“I can’t do that,” he said. “If I complain, they’ll think I’m slacking off. And I have an agreement with them to work two years.”

“But haven’t other people quit before their two years were up?”

“Well, yeah,” IBanker admitted, “but it’s frowned upon.”

“Who cares? You hate your job, and you hate every minute you’re in the office. You should just find something else as soon as possible.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I have to do this. My parents worked and sacrificed so much to give me the opportunity to go to college and have a great career. And I want to be sure to make enough money to support them when they get older, and to support a family with you one day.”

“I don’t care about how much money you make, you know,” I reminded him. “I never have. Besides, I’m probably going to be a doctor, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about money in the future, either. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

“But I’m doing this for you.”

That phrase. Those words. I couldn’t believe he’d just gone there.

“Never say that again,” I said. “You are most certainly not doing this for me. You may be doing this for your parents, or yourself, but I would never have asked you to do this. I would much rather you be happy and fulfilled than slaving away at something you dislike. You are not doing this for me.”

Around January or February I realized I had mentally checked out of the relationship. We had nothing to talk about anymore, very little in common, even though we’d been together for so long. I didn’t see him often and when we were able to get together, IBanker preferred to stay in and catch up on much-needed sleep, though he’d go out if I really coaxed him. It just wasn’t the same as it once was, partially due to distance, and partially due to a lack of connection. We’d grown apart because we didn’t have any time to work on staying together.

A few weeks after my realization, IBanker and I broke up. Do I think that his job was the main the reason for our breakup? Yep. It just sucked away all of his time. Maybe I should’ve been more supportive of him, and more patient, but I don’t have it in me to wait two years before I can talk to my boyfriend on a regular basis about things that aren’t his job.

Apparently, investment banking is one of the most prestigious post-college careers to pursue. People consider it a badge of honor to make it through two grueling years of grunt work and ridiculous hours. I don’t see it that way, possible comparisons to first-year medical internship notwithstanding. I don’t think ibanking is worth it, unless you love it.

Something else to ponder.

My boss at my last job resigned a few weeks before I did. She’s much older than I am, and had been working at our company for over twenty years. During her last week, a group of coworkers who had worked under her took her out for lunch, and I went along.

Somehow I ended up sitting across from her. The small talk, obviously, turned to her job experience: why she was leaving the company after so many years, and how much she’d impacted the company, and what she’d done beforehand.

I said, a little surprised, “Oh, I didn’t know you worked somewhere else. What did you do?”

“Well, a few things,” she said with a little smile. “I was a nurse for a couple years.”

“Oh, really?” I was even more surprised now. Nurses, in my mind, have an extremely dynamic job, with tons of patient interaction (which is the part of medicine I’m most looking forward to). Our then-jobs were pretty much the opposite: we very seldom interacted with people other than each other, and it was very much a daily grind made up of the exact same things every day. “What made you switch careers and start working here?”

Another coworker, whose spouse is a nurse, suggested, “Was it the hours? That’s my biggest complaint about the nursing career …” (I’m not completely sure why. One of my friends is a nurse and, though she works 12-hour shifts, she only does so three days a week. It’s also very easy for her to move her schedule around so she can get two or three weeks off at a time.)

“No, it wasn’t that,” my boss confirmed. “Really, it was the sense of responsibility. Obviously doctors were the ones who were diagnosing the patients, but as a nurse it was my duty to make sure the patients got all their medications, and just to watch out for their overall health, really. Sometimes I would go home and lie awake worrying, what if I missed something? What if someone died because of something I’d inadvertently skipped over during the day?”

Then she glanced my way and added, “Of course, some people can handle that! It just wasn’t for me.”

I double-checked my work at my old job all the time, but there was nothing time-sensitive involved, and really nothing overly important either — certainly nothing that would determine if someone lived or died. But in reference to my becoming a doctor, this was something I’d never really considered before. If I could deal with the constant feeling of responsibility, the urge to double-check my work without (probably) the time to do so. Or if it would keep me up at night, like it had my former boss. If it would ever affect me so much that I would prefer a quiet, even boring, office job, to avoid the weight of caring for other people’s lives.

Something else to ponder when deciding to be a doctor, I guess.

I always get sucked back in.


Despite my specialist doctor’s awesome comfort that made me feel somewhat pacified about attending Relatively Okay, where I will get in-state tuition and thus tons of savings, I am back to really wanting to get in off the waitlist at Top Tier.

My parents visited me recently. I told them about what Dr. Specialist had said, basically relishing that I was now happy with the decision to attend Relatively Okay.

Unfortunately, my dad followed up with what I had sort of expected him to say: “Tuition shouldn’t matter as much as getting the best education you can possibly get.”

And my mom followed up with something a little more practical: “I think Dr. Specialist is right, in that the schools might be about equal in opportunities if you’re sure you want to practice medicine afterwards. But if you’re thinking of doing something else (and my decisive powers being the amazing thing they are, I am clearly still considering possibilities of doing other things with an MD), going to a top-named school will really help. I work with MDs, and I know my company wouldn’t care if they were in the bottom of their class at Top Tier, they’d hire them anyway.” [Implied, to me at least: it would be much more difficult for you to get hired coming from Relatively Okay.]

Damn, damn, damn. My parents are well-meaning and love me and are amazing in general, but they are not very helpful in this “being happy with what I have” thing I’m trying to get going. Plus, I think my mom brings up a fairly good point.

It gets worse. So, I decided after this to write another letter to Top Tier. (I wrote one “expressing my continued interest” just after getting put on the waitlist.) I hate writing these letters with all of my heart. I mean it. I even wrote a blog entry about it that I haven’t quite been able to publish yet.

Anyway, the letter isn’t the point, although that added to the annoying experiences of the day. The point is that I Googled the dean’s name, just to be sure I was spelling it right, because I don’t have his official contact info with me. Unfortunately, I not only got confirmation of his name, I also espied the forums at that were discussing waitlists in general, and ones specifically at Top Tier.

I only could see one cached page because the forums seem to be down at the moment, but suffice to say that people were getting in. It was from about a month ago. Fucking people got in a month ago and they seemed to be writing way more letters and doing way more shit about the waitlist than I was. How could I possibly expect to get in with two written letters? Well-written ones, sure, but people were getting additional letters of recommendation and all sorts of crap and, well …

Basically, I know in my mind it is supposedly technically still possible to get in off the waitlist, but I don’t know if it is actually possible. Even if I ramped up my enthusiasm and dedicated more time to contacting Top Tier and advertising myself, it might be too late by now. I don’t think I will get in and it is such a frustrating feeling. I’m a good candidate. I would be good there. I know it, and I’m sure they know it, or I wouldn’t be on their waitlist. But I probably just won’t get to go.

This is why I never browse forums.

From one transition to the next.

I’m quitting my job this week, and I’m extremely excited to do so. I’m still not entirely sure it’s a good idea (what else is new?), but everyone whom I’ve ever talked to has said to take a break before med school if it’s at all possible, so I’m going to go ahead and listen to them.

What do I have planned for my spare time? Er, not all that much, really. I may try to write a book (something I’ve been attempting since I was, I don’t know, 13, and have never quite had the gumption to finish). Maybe try to learn Spanish, which is apparently very important for inner city doctoring. Buy an air conditioner for my apartment, almost definitely.

It’s probably going to be a slightly strange transition time. Submitting my resignation made my decision to go to medical school seem much more final, finally. And everybody has been asking recently, “So, are you getting really excited?”

At first the answer was no. Really, I’m more stressed than excited: stressed about moving, stressed about Guy in all likelihood moving to the same place for me, stressed about staying on the waitlists and trying to figure out if I’m hoping to get in or not while also trying to stay realistic and accepting my current position at a school and being fine with it.

But the answer has sort of morphed. I am getting kind of excited, to do something new and challenging that’ll finally require my brain again. I don’t think the first two years of med school will be that great, but I’m interested in what patient interaction I will have (the school promises some), and I like the prospect of clinical rotations in third and fourth years. Guy both helps and doesn’t. He’s getting somewhat excited about moving too, but doesn’t like the job search involved, because really, who does?

Over the summer I’ll probably move this blog, because I don’t want “Lack of Decision” to define me any more. I haven’t completely decided where to move it or what to name it, so I’ll take my months off to do that, too, heh. I’ve been getting some more traffic recently, and I have no idea where it came from, but thanks to anyone who’s linked me :). And, I would love to hear from anyone who has opinions on what I’m saying! Comments or e-mail are always awesome.

Anyway, this post did not have a point, as I’ve tried to make most of mine on here have, except that I’m entering yet another transition period, or maybe just the end section of my current transition period.

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