Goldman Sachs is a unique place to start your career. The team-oriented culture and constant pursuit of excellence has its advantages and disadvantages. Their Investment Banking Division is synonymous with long hours and heavy workloads, characteristics that are consistent across the firm. Working as a junior investment banker ad Goldman can be viewed as a bootcamp that equips you with a transferable skillset.
These skills are acquired in most jobs, but there is a multiplier effect in investment banking. The rigid hierarchy, expectation to always be available, and client service nature of the job locks the amplifier into 11 without an ability to turn it down. Without a strict system in place, humans are not individually motivated to always keep the amplifier on 11. When you are constantly drinking from a fire hose and sprinting a marathon the skillset you acquire will compound faster, otherwise known as the multiplier effect.
Investment banking is on the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of workplace culture, norms, and work life balance. If you are in shape to run a marathon, then running 6 miles on any given day won't seem that difficult. Similarly, if you spend some time in investment banking, most other jobs won't seem as extreme.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of skills one acquires as an investment banker.
How to say no
In a thoughtful way, say no to unnecessary work. It will take some time to build goodwill and rapport with managers, but pushback can be well received if framed appropriately. Similar to gas molecules, work will always fill the space that is provided. Say no and shrink that space to force out unnecessary tasks.
Sometimes pushing back and saying no doesn’t work and you are stuck with a tedious task. In those moments you learn to lock in and grind through. When it’s all done there may not be anything glamorous to showcase but it puts other less tedious tasks into perspective.
Overcommunicate your deadlines to your managers to manage time effectively. You are essentially outsourcing your capacity decision to your bosses to figure out their priorities. Deadlines will be extended or reshuffled accordingly.
Find the 20% of input that generates 80% of the output (Pareto principle). You will please your managers by accomplishing the bulk of the work and still have time for refinement and iterations. Nothing is worse than spending tons of time on a project and having nothing to show for it.
Acquire a skillset in a short amount of time
It’s hard to motivate yourself to focus on anything for ~80 hours per week unless you have parameters in place. Investment banking creates the infrastructure to force you to learn quickly by brute force. In two quick years you learn how to value companies, build financial models, and understand how corporate clients make strategic decisions.
Function on little sleep
There will be times in life beyond banking when you have to operate on little sleep. You can think back to your banking experience when you need extra motivation to get something done. You learn different tips and tricks to function at a high level on consecutive nights of only 4 hours of sleep.