AVERAGE STARTING SALARY: $45-$85K
(Eventually, of course, you’ll make much more. But even then, only boat money -- not jet money. For that kind of scratch, see Hedge Fund Manager).
WOW FACTOR: 8
PARENTAL PRIDE QUOTIENT: 9
DANGER INDEX: 1
(There’s always the risk of being kicked by your polo pony).
IS IT RIGHT FOR ME?
With investment banking, as with the market itself, it’s all about timing. A year-and-a-half ago, I-banking remained the dream job of every overindulged, to-the-manor-born Ivy Leaguer with C+ grades and A+ connections. Then Wall Street drove the economy off a cliff and the profession’s reputation took a major hit. For a while there, in the public’s perception, investment bankers were the lowest of the low -- ranking somewhere between pedophiles and serial pedophiles.
What a difference a bailout makes. Now, with a skyrocketing Dow, Goldman bonuses at record levels, and “Wall Street 2” in pre-production, investment banking is the balls again. So grab your resume, kid, and schedule a fitting for that monocle.
Once you make it to the top, investment banking is just like it looks in the brochure: flying first-class, schmoozing in corporate boxes, and negotiating deals with Warren Buffet over G&T’s and badminton at your summer place. But just starting out, it’s a real bitch. We’re talking 140-hour workweeks, pulling all-nighters to throw together pitch books so your boss can look good. And in return, your boss will show his gratitude by treating you like a bag of his Afghan hound's crap. Unless you’re a chick, in which case he’ll just sexually harass you until you quit.
WHAT TRAINING DO I NEED?
Eventually you’ll need an MBA, but most firms will hire liberal arts graduates to work as analysts for a couple years first, which is win-win for everyone. The bank gets to weed out the weak before investing too much effort in their professional grooming, while the analysts who kill themselves save a fortune on those Wharton student loans.
HOW DO I GET THE JOB?
Investment banks recruit from colleges and business schools, and often start you off with a job over the summer. Competition is fierce, so come to your on-campus interview prepared to kiss serious ass. But don't be too eager beaver-y. Bankers may not be able to sense impending financial apocalypse, but they can smell desperation.
The thing that’ll keep you going as you slog through the trenches is the lure of that giant bonus check come January. And trust me -- it’ll be worth the wait. Even a first-year analyst’s paltry $50,000 will buy him 625 lap dances at Scores.
Even before the collapse, investment bankers weren’t exactly beloved by the hoi polloi. And unless Lloyd Blankfein invests some of those bonus billions in a massive PR campaign, your business card might as well read, “Junior Vice Asshole.”