Unless you’re in finance, you probably can’t imagine being excited to hear that you get one whole day a week off. But that’s the position employees of Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch found themselves in recently, when their companies unveiled new policies that would require them to take off four days a month. Bankers, especially junior employees, regularly work over 100 hours a week. But that’s only one reason they’re miserable.
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“It might sound strange, but many young people come to Wall Street expecting to make the world a better place,” writes Kevin Roose at The Atlantic. “This is partly the fault of recruiters, who tempt college juniors and seniors with promises of ‘real-world responsibility’ and rhapsodies about socially responsible investing. But it’s also wishful thinking on the recruits’ part.”
Roose wrote a book about young bankers. Called Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits, it follows the lives of junior bankers for over three years, and finds that life is very different than what you see in the movies or what the bankers themselves expected when they first chose their majors.
In addition to lacking purpose, junior bankers’ jobs are so stressful that they induce health problems and depression. At least two of the subjects Roose followed openly contemplated suicide, tongue only partially in cheek:
“If the goal is, like, how do I inflict maximum psychological damage, then I think just going up to your desk and blowing your brains out in the middle of the day would be the best,” said Jeremy Miller-Reed, 23. [All names were changed, for obvious reasons.]
“Nah,” said Samson White, 22. “You know what would happen? All the other analysts would get an e-mail from the associates saying, ‘Can you guys clean this up?’ And then everyone would go back to work.”
Imagine if you had to work 20 straight hours in that atmosphere. Even $90,000 to $140,000 a year right out of school wouldn’t make up for working under those conditions. Especially since, when you divide that money by the number of hours worked, it’s basically the same as having two non-Wall Street jobs that pay $45k.
In short, being a banker, especially at first, is not all it’s cracked up to be. Hopefully the industry will keep adding reforms like the “one day off” rule, in addition to being honest with recruits about what the job will entail.
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