Why VP is the worst job at Goldman Sachs (or anywhere)

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If you're a Goldman Sachs associate and you didn't get promoted to vice president this year, I'd like to commiserate with you. Failing to make VP is hard; it might not be your fault  - it could be there's simply no headcount or budget for your role, but it doesn't look great. And if you did get promoted? I'd like to commiserate with you too: VP is the worst job in banking.

The mere fact that you've hung around long enough to become a VP is a bad sign. It suggests you're part of the 'silent mediocrity:' the mass of people who are good enough to get into banking, diligent enough to stick with it, but not good enough to move off the buy-side. You're also probably pretty good at playing politics, otherwise you'd have been bumped-off by now, but this is nothing to boast of.

The real problem with being a VP in an investment bank is that you're stuck. You've made your decision: you're a banker. When you're a VP, you'll have to tolerate your MD demanding a deliverable for the next morning. You'll have to manage your flaky associates and even flakier analysts. You're in middle management baby. So, how does it feel?

Bad. That's what. As a VP you're in the anti-Goldilocks zone. If you were going to get out of banking, you needed to do it when you were an analyst or an associate. If you decide you want to get out, you'll probably have to wait 'til you're a managing director (MD). Buy-side firms either want people they can mould (analysts/associates), or they want people with solid relationships and established track records (MDs). VPs are neither fish nor fowl.

Of course, you can always move to another bank. Goldman Sachs has got a thing for poaching in VPs and executive directors (EDs) this year. When you move as a VP, the bank that hires you will usually tell you about all the opportunities for making MD there. But, be warned: if you want to make MD, you'll need a strong support base. If you join as VP this is precisely what you won't have.

So there you have it. As a VP, you're in a trap of your own making. You can't get out. You probably can't get up. You're a fish in a barrel for banks looking for middle managers to do the heavy lifting now that analysts and associates are protected against overwork. Congratulations on the promotion! Then again, maybe not.

Shannon Brown is the pseudonym of a VP at Goldman Sachs.

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