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Building a career in finance has always meant working hard.
For junior bankers, it has traditionally meant long hours, late nights, and doing the grunt work that the senior bankers pass on.
But is being a junior banker worse today than it was 20 or 30 years ago?
One of Wall Street’s most senior investment bankers gave us some insight.
‘Back in my day …’
When he was a rookie, the banker said, the wannabe Masters of the Universe were unquestioning in their dedication.
If a boss told them to jump, he said, they would always respond, ‘How high?’
But nowadays if the banker – who is in his 50s and runs one of the biggest businesses on Wall Street – asks a young analyst to jump, they might respond with something like:
“Well, I don’t know if that’s the right move for me. I’m not sure jumping is the right thing to do on this occasion. How is jumping going to help me? I think I would rather skip. I think skipping might be better than jumping. Let me take some time to think about that. I am going to get back to you on that.”
He chalked that up to the way millennials have been raised.
Millennials need protecting from themselves
That isn’t to say that junior bankers work less hard. In fact, he said it is quite the opposite. They are just more likely to want their opinions heard and to ask whether the thing they are being asked to do is the right thing to do.
When the banker was young, he and his analysts colleagues were eager and worked hard – but only so long as they were in the office.
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Because his bosses could only reach him by speaking face-to-face or on a landline phone, he was pretty much off the hook when he went home for the evening or weekend.
In other words, there was a limit to how much work he could do.
The difference today is that junior bankers have smart phones and laptops, which means they are accessible at all times.
For the most part they’re just as eager as they used to be, but today there are fewer boundaries.
In a sense, junior bankers today need to be protected from themselves – from their own ambition – to avoid burning out, the banker said.
That’s partly why banks across the Street have begun implementing rules and guidelines to limit the hours that analysts work. Goldman Sachs, for example, protects Saturdays, while Bank of America analysts are expected to take at least four days off per month.