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Is Finance Still a Good Career Path?

Caree Path

The adrenaline-charged heyday of 1980’s Wall Street still fuels popular imagination today. Films like Wolf of Wall Street portray the thrill-seeking ambition once promised in elite finance gigs – wealth, status, nonstop excitement. Increased governance and scrutiny mean gone are the days of snorting coke off a broker’s desk between shouts into the phone. 

The rocket-ride to the top now faces fierce new headwinds even as the remaining allure pulls talent onwards. The new reality? 80-100+ hour grind fests focused on building legally and technically complex financial models to power deals and supercharge returns.

Let there be no confusion, mental resilience is mandatory to survive the nonstop pressure. Once seated at the top of the financial prestige hierarchy and paid like gods, rainmakers today face much shorter tenures before hungrier employees replace them. Volatility at the highest levels means hustling relentlessly just to stand still, constantly watching your step to prove composure and perfectionism to intense bosses. For the few who make it, luxury lifestyles await. But the sacrifices required has given a bit more to think about to talents. On that note, this article is not focused about debating the ‘softness’ or the new generation.

Rapid Rise of AI May Change the Game

Perhaps you are also wondering about the added complexity of AI and automation? To be honest, it is beginning to threaten major segments of the financial workforce. Leaders predict widespread job losses as artificial intelligence handles routine analytical and operational tasks more quickly, accurately, and cheaply than humans. Employees and talent (that means you) must skill-up rapidly to stay valuable directing high level strategy and decisions versus displaced into redundancy.

This ongoing AI march heightens allure and competition for the golden roles beyond disruption’s reach…for now at least. Human advisors with empathic skills still bond with high-net-worth individuals. Quants develop complex instruments and trading algorithms impossible for AI. Dealmakers leverage intuition and relationships when negotiating multi-million-dollar transactions. The finance ladder narrows but extends upwards even higher for those reaching the un-automatable roles at the very top.

Why Finance Still Builds In-Demand Human Skills

Despite these sobering realities, finance develops versatile talents applicable across industries. Roles here require rigorous analytics, communicating complex ideas, managing high-stakes projects, and performing under maximum pressure. Transferable soft skills also become razor sharp – mental toughness, resilience, hustling, quick learning. Conclusion, you will be employable.

Finance work also builds invaluable professional connections to springboard careers either within the industry or out to other lucrative business sectors. Ambitious alumni of top investment banks and private equity funds get calls returned from future dream employers. The brand effect should not get underestimated when planning long game career trajectories.

Side Gigs and their Sobering Reality

The flexibility of side gigs once threatened finance’s talent monopoly, their lifestyle freedom promising similar or better paydays. Digital platforms enabled almost anyone to monetize niche skills on-demand. We all have that friend or follow that influencer who works as an Airbnb host and runs profitable mini-hotel businesses renting local properties. Nowadays, Instagram DM salesmen match lawyers’ salaries pitching high-ticket services and products. Even social media marketers earn 4-figures per digital campaign.

But cold reality has started cooling the passion economy’s overheated growth forecasts. The influx of providers across domains drives down rates and increases competition. AI also starts handling basic graphic design, digital marketing, and search engine optimization tasks with increasing quality. Human creators must master ever-more complex skillsets to maintain income velocity. Don’t believe me? Fiverr and Upwork recently reported a decrease in average earnings of all their creators for the first time.

And side hustles ultimately lack finance’s enduring network benefits that amplify career growth over decades. Rainmakers build lifelong relationships with investor titans and Fortune 500 C-suiters. The social and reputational capital accumulated working at a Blackstone or Goldman Sachs opens doors for years to come. Exiting into your dream company or even a successful entrepreneurial venture proves far easier when finance titans remain a phone call away. Good luck getting your favourite VC to pick up when dialling about your Etsy shop’s funding needs.

Finance Continuously attracts the Ambitious

The barriers keeping status-hungry talent from finance’s upper echelons only seem to heighten its magnetic attraction for many. The intellectual challenge, prestige and money-making potential motivate despite tighter spaces at the top. But they now filter even more ruthlessly for technical expertise across complex domains combined with relentless drive and mental stamina.

The rewards await, but only for those select few who tough out the skill-building and endurance necessary to summit finance’s top peaks. For those who do, endless racks, status and connections eventually emerge to power dreams or fuel further goals. But the environment only stays welcoming to those willing to sacrifice aspects of mental health, relationships, and work-life balance upon its platform of riches.

The cold reality is that side hustle flexibility continues getting disrupted by economic forces and AI’s inevitable creep into profitable terrain. But finance resists total human displacement – at least for now – by regularly adding new complex responsibilities as automated ones get stripped away. So, the allure of status and riches persists despite the battlefield wounds accumulated mastering lucrative new precision skillsets essential for those limited seats left at the very top. At the end of the day, it’s a choice: dine on the secure platter of finance with its servings of pressure, or savour a riskier meal with your own hustle, perhaps with a side of less shit on the plate.


A word about the author

Aurelian Tran is the founder of Alpha Lane and an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst who has spent 4+ years working in the investment banking industry.

He founded Alpha Lane to help students and young professionals achieve their highest professional ambitions, by securing offers at top-tier financial institutions.