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.