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Starting A New Job In Investment Banking? 7 Mistakes You Should Never Make


You received an offer from a top investment bank? Congrats. You now have your foot in the door. 

That said, don’t get overconfident, as there are still many ways to ruin your chances of getting a full-time offer (if you’re doing an internship) or not making a strong enough impression to keep a new position. 

In this article, we share key mistakes that you should never make when starting a new investment banking role, if you want to stay in this industry…

Mistake #1: Don’t act like you’re the best

When you secure an offer at a prestigious investment bank, you feel on top of the world, and your ego is instantly boosted. If you do get an offer, it will be very tempting to think that you’re the best, that no human being on Earth can compete with you, and you are the “Chosen One”. 

I’m barely exaggerating here. Delusions of grandeur are a real thing among fresh investment banking recruits. While it’s ok to feel like you’re the best, do NOT act like you’re the best when you’re starting your new role. 

Don’t arrive on the first day with a Rolex Daytona, a $5,000 suit, and an air of superiority on your face that says “I’m better than all of you guys”… If you behave like you’re the s***, people will hate you, I guarantee it. 

When you’re starting out, you’re nobody. You’ll work with people that are 10 times more experienced than you and 100 times more competent. 

You’re just an ambitious young recruit that was smart and diligent enough to go through a selective recruiting process successfully. So if you want people to enjoy your company and treat you properly, start by not acting like you’re the GOAT. 

Mistake #2: Don’t stay in your corner, even if you’re doing good work

Being a competent investment banker is not just about building elaborate Excel models and meticulously crafted 152-slide PowerPoint presentations. No matter how good you are on the technical side, lone wolves don’t fare well in this industry. If you want to be respected and appreciated by your peers, you need to socialize with your team. 

That means eating lunch with them, offering help when you have capacity, staying with them late in the night to get some urgent work done, etc. If you make the mistake of staying in your corner, thinking that great work alone will be enough to make you thrive in this industry, you’re wrong. 

I know some students who behaved like this during their first IB internship: they were objectively very good at their job, but they never really took part in social interactions with the rest of the team. Even if they had good intentions, most of them didn’t get a return offer, while some more socially-astute interns did. So remember to socialize!

Mistake #3: Don’t gossip

If you start working in investment banking, you’ll notice that some people have a tendency to say things on the back of people. 

This can happen at all levels of seniority: interns saying bad things on MDs, VPs saying bad things about Associates, Associates saying bad things about interns… Gossiping is very common in the workplace, regardless of the industry. Now, even if others are doing it, don’t do it yourself. 

Most of the time, gossiping can only hurt your reputation, and your reputation is your most precious asset. If you heard others saying bad things about a colleague, don’t partake, even if you think the same. 

Focus on your work, say great things about people when you mean them, but never break the trust or say bad things about a colleague in his back. It will almost always backfire at some point. And it will hurt your chances of being promoted, let alone staying with this company.

Mistake #4: Don’t argue with other colleagues

In the same vein, never make the mistake of arguing with your colleagues, even if you have some very valid reasons to do so. When you’re starting a new role, your goal is to either convert your internship into an offer, or, in the case it’s a full time role, establish your reputation as a competent and reliable person. 

If you argue with people in your team within the first months of your role, others may perceive you as a source of trouble and your reputation will be tarnished. So avoid conflict with team members, regardless of their seniority level (that includes fellow interns).

Mistake #5: Don’t wait to get some work from others

A common mistake that I see frequently among new recruits is to wait until they get some work from more senior employees. 

Being passive is not an attitude that will play in your favor. If you have nothing to do, don’t cross your legs and pretend to be working on something: be proactive, approach your manager, and offer your help. 

Even if there’s literally no work to be done (which is very rare in investment banking), bankers will at least appreciate your willingness to contribute, which will make you a more valuable and trusted team member. 

Don’t overdo it though. If you ask for more work three times a day, people may become annoyed, even if you mean well. But offering help proactively whenever there is some downtime is an excellent idea that can never go wrong.

Mistake #6: Don’t complain

Sounds quite obvious, but worth mentioning: never complain while you’re working. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working until 1am for three nights in a row, that associates are trashing your work for no reasons, and that you’re tired of correcting double-spaces on PowerPoint slides for the 57th time: never ever complain. 

Even if you want to scream at everyone and express your discontentment about your working conditions, keep it to yourself (unless there is severe work-related abuse, in which case you should talk to HR). 

Complaining will never help you in this industry. So toughen up and try to find genuine appreciation in your work even if it’s hard.

Mistake #7: Don’t leave your desk earlier than your colleagues

As a general rule of thumb, do not leave the desk before your senior colleagues. For example, if you’re an intern and you see that one of the Associates is still working, it’s usually better to continue working until he leaves. Yes, this is stupid. Yes, it makes zero sense from a productivity standpoint. 

But whether we like it or not, “presenteeism” is indeed part of the investment banking culture, and it’s not likely to change any time soon. Now, if you have a good reason (like having to go home early for your mother’s Birthday), it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your desk before other senior colleagues. Just make sure to notify them well in advance. 

Also, if one senior colleague is staying until very late for an exceptional reason (he has to do a job urgently that he can only do by himself), it’s also fine to go home before him. It’s not a rule set in stone, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Leaving the desk always earlier than your senior colleagues may be perceived as a sign of under-investment (even if you’re very productive). Stupid tradition, but that’s how the game is played.  


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.