15 indispensible pieces of career advice from senior bankers

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We’ve talked to plenty of bankers, traders and recruiters this year, each of whom has offered their fair share of advice for those growing up in the industry. Below are what we believe to be the best of the best. Inspirational, educational or just plain brutally honest. Take from the advice what you may.

“What I lack in brains, I make up in energy. You need to be energetic, enthusiastic, persistent and dogged. Most pitches won’t be successful and you could have spent hours working on a presentation, but so will have the competition. We don’t sell a physical product, we sell what we can do for clients and you need to show intellect, but also doggedness.” – Diego de Giorgi, co-head of corporate and investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

“As a VP, you need to stop being indispensable as the person you are and to start becoming indispensable as the person you can become. You need to show the organization that your future possibilities are greater than your current possibilities. This means working with your team, learning to delegate and becoming a good manager of people as a way to deliver results. “You need to stop being the person who just answers other people’s questions.” – May Busch, a former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe

“A successful investment banker is part salesman and part lawyer – it’s a package of qualities rather than any one key skill. If you don’t have that ability to influence people then you have to question whether it’s the right career for you, because in the long term it’s not going to be easy.” – Jonathan Rowley, chairman of M&A for EMEA at UBS

“When you are losing money, what can be even more frustrating is the office politics. You get unsolicited opinions from people you didn’t even know existed. Your boss’s boss all the way down to the janitor have an opinion on what you should be doing differently. You will get advice like, “Raj. You should have sold all your Twitter stock before it went down”.  And you can do nothing but agree when you really want to say, “Wow. Did they teach you that at Harvard Business School? Did you think of that all by yourself? Why didn’t I think of that?” – trader-turned-comedian Raj Mahal

“Clients like loyalty and consistency – it’s very important. You can develop long and complicated relationships before business comes into fruition. It takes years to build trust.” – Camillo Greco, head of M&A advisory at JPMorgan

“You’ll always be busy anyway, and people remember the quality of your work, not how much you can take on.” – Mark Hatz, a former M&A associate at Goldman Sachs and Perella Weinberg Partners on why you shouldn’t ever ask for more work

“I love stories and so I love it when someone comes along with a genuine story which shows their passion and how they tackled a challenge and had a positive effect on the world. I can see that they will have the same passion for future career challenges. I want to see the passion shining through!” – Xanyar Kamangar, a director in the Technology, Media & Telecom (TMT) team at Deutsche Bank, on his favorite interview answer

“If a senior person offers you the opportunity to work on a project that is outside of your comfort zone, do not be shy about taking it up. That senior person probably believes you have what it takes for the job, so prove them right. The worst that can happen is that you learn from your mistakes.” – Ziad Awad, a former Bank of America Merrill Lynch managing director who now runs his own boutique Awad Advisory

“Ask every single other person on the planet for help, before you go back to your manager,” Ben Rick, the former European head of prop trading at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who is now managing partner at Social and Sustainable Capital

“People may earn more than you, and they may be given career breaks you feel you deserve. Advancement programs are by nature imperfect. Learn to live with that. If you are happy, keep working at it. In the end you will be recognized. When you have been unhappy for too many months in a row, make tracks.” – Graham Ward, former co-head of Goldman Sachs’ European equity business and adjunct professor of leadership at INSEAD

“Do not assume that they actually ‘care’ about your personal issues, whether it is a family tragedy or your impending wedding and honeymoon. They may or may not be polite enough to show some sympathy, but, particularly in a large organization, they have a business to run and you need to make your life fit around that, not the other way around.” – Ziad Awad

“I would advise anyone considering a career in banking to run through all the options beforehand. If it is what you want to do and you are passionate about it then you are far more likely to be successful. This held true back then, but is even more important these days.” – Patrick Delivanis, head of investment banking for the MENA region at Morgan Stanley

“They are really hiring VPs to eventually be MDs, so the focus on client skills and on personality and fit and presence is going to be much higher. As an associate, they pretty much just want to know if you are smart enough and can do the job without annoying everyone around you. Presence is nice in an associate, but modeling skills are better. For a VP, it’s almost the opposite.” – an anonymous senior investment banker on the differences of associates and VPs

“Dive in 100%, understand it will be your life and you will be working-sleeping-working in a Groundhog Day cycle. Don’t ever sit quietly and enjoy a slow day or week, find more work, take on more responsibility, make yourself an essential member of the team. Point out if you think something you are doing is a waste of time, find a better solution, make the product better, create and add value – don’t just do what is asked of you. Never complain, if you don’t like something you need to highlight the problem and offer an alternative. Of course you don’t like making pitch books at 3am but unless you can complete the project more efficiently you don’t have an option, so figure out a better way or deal with it.” – an anonymous investment banker with advice for juniors

“One thing that we emphasize at the start of the program is that you have to be very good at your day job but you also need to make an effort to think about more than what is happening at your desk. Networking is not only about building relationships, it will also help you learn how your team fits into the broader organization and allows you to start to putting all the pieces together about Goldman Sachs – how we generate revenue and how we support our clients. That in turn helps the interns perform better at their day jobs.” – Erika Coleman, vice president of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs

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