COMMENT: My survival guide for first year analysts in IBD
If you're a recent graduate about to start a full time position as an analyst in an investment bank, then brace yourself. I was in your shoes five years ago. The next year is not going to be easy, but there are a few things you can do to ease the burden before you start and as you go along.
1. Really, really know how to use Excel
When I joined, I asked my then-associate what her most prominent issues with new analysts were. She said "Everything here can be taught, except Excel. You can't teach someone Excel from scratch." The best investment you can make before you join is therefore to ensure your Excel skills are advanced enough that you can do a model in your sleep.
The most basic requirement is knowing how to work with Excel entirely without a mouse. Trust me, being advanced in Excel will send you home much earlier than your peers. When you join, you should observe your seniors as they correct your Excel work, and make sure you thoroughly learn about those checks that they did. You will then know how to perform those checks yourself, which is how you advance.
2. Triple check your work and be fluent with version control
Always double/triple check your work before you send to someone. When you first join, your performance as a junior will be directly measured by how much you care about your output. Below are some examples of simple habits to form for such checks:
- Always print your work out and check it on the hard-copy
- Always turn on your spell checks and perform other Excel checks
- Leave the "To" box in our outlook email client empty until the last moment before you send
- Before you print, do a quick "Replace" function to replace double spacing with single spacing
Similarly, as you'll be collaborating with the team, it is crucial that you learn about how the team works in terms of version control. This will ensure that you don't accidentally delete half a day of someone else's work. Below are some examples of simple habits that will help you get this right:
- Always send attachments using an internal hyperlink if sent internally, and only send the actual document when sent externally. (This might not make sense to you now before you join - just ask your associate how to do it)
- When working in a team, establish who holds the master version and who work on a side version (called the 'rider').
- Learn about your team's file storing structure and naming convention on the first day. Adhere to it: it will make your life and everyone else's life much easier if you do.
3. Prioritize and understand self-care
Before you join, try to nail down your health regimen and be well informed about how to take care of yourself. Once you join, all these self-care habits will still be played every day in autopilots. You don't want to be trying to form new habits while cramming an 80+ work week.
So, do you know what kind of vitamin deficiencies you have? Have you nailed down a list of supplements you should take every day? Have you established a gym schedule, water intake and diets that work? Have you got a morning and night time routine? I’ve written about bankers' health problems, and how to solve them here.
In addition, how are you with your finances? Have you got your spending habits in order? You don't want to end up living from pay-check to pay-check like the majority of analysts.
4. Prepare for your exit from day one
You might not know it yet, but it is likely that you might leave the firm at some point. It is wise to think about and prepare for your exit since the first day. Have this intention in mind when you selectively network with people. Keep a personal log of all your deals and ensure you always understand as much as possible about what's happening. If that means asking your MD out for a coffee for him to explain to you some strategic moves of the client or a particular pricing point, do it. It is hard to form a habit of assembling these materials while all you want is some more sleep, but it will assist you greatly in preparing for your eventual exit thoroughly. When you decide it is time for you to start your move, check out my guide on how to start positioning yourself for a successful exit; as well as the logistics of quitting to ensuring that you leave on good terms.
Have a fantastic few weeks of training. I hope these tips will prepare you better for when you start, and good luck!
Mai Le was an investment banking associate at Goldman Sachs before she left to work on her own company Automate Loan. Besides writing on her own blog, she also runs a cover-letter sharing community called Cover Letter Library and a learning and community platform for analysts called Next Analyst.
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