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Morning Coffee: Provocation of 25-year-old ex-Goldman analyst who left in Sept. How to take time out and chill without hurting your CV

As the TV show “Supernanny” taught us, intelligent toddlers often discover that while negative attention isn’t as nice as positive attention, it’s still attention and it’s a lot easier to get.  When those kids grow up and become podcasters, they sometimes remember the trick, and post things like this tweet from Chris Hladczuk:

There’s no social media equivalent of “the naughty step”, unfortunately; the nearest equivalent would probably be the practice of checking up on someone’s credentials on LinkedIn:

But despite the rage of “work/life balance Twitter”, Hladczuk’s opinion did seem to strike a chord.  For every person castigating him in the more than 2,000 replies his post received, there seems to be another agreeing with him that, unpleasant as it is to hear, your twenties are for grinding and that time and progress lost in the early stages of your career are difficult to make up later.  These views often came from people with significantly more life experience than one year on the Goldman analyst program (even if it did involve 15 months of 17-hour days), followed by five months at a fintech startup.

So is he right, or not?  The important thing to realize is that there is no answer to this question.  Because it’s not really a question – it’s a statement about how the author views the world, at this point in time.  The reason that it resonates so much, and why tweets like this go viral roughly once every six weeks, is that in their twenties, almost everyone has a low-level anxiety at the back of their minds, asking some version of “am I wasting the best years of my life?”.  The Yale graduates working eighty-hour weeks at Goldman Sachs are worrying that they will never have fun or find a life partner, while the ones in graduate school or nonprofits are worrying that they will never make enough money to justify their elite education. 

And it’s no different at any other point up or down the class system – your teens are the time when you discover who you are, but your twenties are the time for wondering if it’s not too late to change your mind. The grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence.

In any case, what do terms like “work/life balance” and “mediocre career” actually mean?  Different things to different people.  The Goldman analyst class of 2021 complained about working 100 hour weeks, but might have regarded 75 hours as balanced.  A “mediocre career” in investment banking can easily generate enough money to retire in your 40s, if it spans a couple of bull market years and you don’t have expensive tastes.  Expressing opinions on this sort of question is really just a more complicated version of “virtue signalling” – it’s expressing membership of a particular tribe rather than anything factual.

The real horrific truth is that there is absolutely no way that you can spend your 20s which won’t leave you with at least some regrets when you’re older.  It’s part of growing up.  The important thing is to deal with these issues and make sure you’ve come to terms with your life choices before they start affecting other people – particularly not people who might grow up to be Twitter influencers.

On a related subject, as a recent letter to the FT’s “Dear Jonathan” column shows, as time goes on, people have life events which interact with industry downturns and corporate restructurings, and this can result in taking an extended career break.  How do you then frame things when you want to come back to the industry?

The FT commenters seem to have the right idea.  In the first place, you need to tell the truth; if what has happened is “I accepted a buyout because the restructuring came at a time when my partner needed help, then I tried a few other things for a few years”, then it’s not a good idea to say anything else.  But the other crucial point made is that the key question in anyone’s mind when interviewing a candidate who has had such a break is “do they still want to do this?”.  If someone has walked away from banking once, they might do so again.  So although it’s nice to be able to tell a story about new skills you’ve developed, it’s essential to be clear about why you took the career break and why it’s now over.

Meanwhile …

Morgan Stanley is fining its bankers for sending WhatsApp messages. Some are being fined up to $1m each and the sums are being deducted either from past deferrals or future bonus payments. (Financial Times) 

Given the scarcity of ECM deals, and the state of their relationship with Elon Musk, JPMorgan bankers might be forgiven for not wishing luck to the planned $3bn capital raising for Twitter, as if it goes ahead it is likely to leave them starting the year significantly behind in the league tables. (WSJ)

A little bit of banker-career auditing is possibly needed with respect this claim; Dr Steven Radowitz does seem to have been employed on a contract at the in-house clinics of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, but “in-house physician” is pushing it a bit, and his psychedelic epiphany looks like it happened on his own time. (Business Insider)

Is there something in the staff canteen on Paradeplatz? A surprising number of UBS bankers seem to have moved into jobs in the “alternative foods” sector. (Finews)

A reminder of how insanely lucrative the crypto industry was until very recently – having been hired on a five-year contract from Google in 2020, Coinbase’s chief product officer Surojit Chatterjee will be leaving three years early next week, having cashed in over $100m in stock sales under the Rule 10b5-1 plan (DLNews)

Although others have grumbled about the amount of money spent on the platforms business, Goldman Sachs’ Marco Argenti regards the “technological transformation” as a success, and in an interview he explains how he did it. (Forbes)

“It’s not like it’s an approved product … it’s a non-disapproved product”.  Silvergate Bank, the preferred provider of payment services to the crypto industry, has all sorts of problems. (New York Magazine)

Private equity firms are back in the seat, interviewing associates, because last summer's hiring didn't work out. (Business Insider) 

Bloomberg is hiring 1,000 people this year, mostly across data, product and engineering. (Business Insider)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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