How to job hop in investment banking and survive

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Gone are the days of one-job-for-life. That phenomenon is a thing of the past.

Once upon a time, being a job hopper was a grave sin which made it insurmountably difficult for you to land a new job. From the moment you sat in front of a prospective employer you were on the defensive against accusations of infidelity. Until recently it was a scarlet letter of sorts. But times have changed.

You can now job hop and more than just survive doing it. Well-executed, a job change will enable you obtain a more senior position (maybe even skip over one) and also get paid a heck of a lot more money.

A guy I knew did just that. The day he showed up at our bank it was to assume his third job in five years.

Adam the job-hopper

Adam once held an associate role in IBD within an investment bank. Though he was paid well and worked for a leading bank, his ambition led him to jump to the buy-side and he joined a blue-chip private equity firm. On an exceptional package. And then, having barely memorised the password to his new workplace computer, he sought out his next move. This landed him on the doorstep of my bank with a compensation deal whose size could only be surpassed by that of his smile.

With each move Adam skipped a position and negotiated an ever more gargantuan amount of pay. Not bad, right?

Don’t be fooled, his path was anomalous. It would be challenging to replicate what he did. Adam was lucky because his geographic expertise became fashionable almost overnight, making him highly “in demand.” The wind was blowing in his direction.

You may not be Adam, but this doesn't mean you should rule out job-hopping altogether. You can do it too, but you need to be careful how you go about it.

1. You need to be job-hopping for the right reasons

Are you changing jobs because you can’t stand your current one, or because a great opportunity has presented itself and it’s just right? Think about it carefully.

You need to have good reasons for moving.

Changing jobs isn’t easy. It’s emotionally draining. You need to make new friends, get used to new routines. Establish new ties and win the approval of new people – not easy in shark-infested waters. Don’t underestimate the politics of banking.

So make sure the hop fits with your long-term objective.

2. Speak to your mentor

I'm assuming you have a mentor...If you don't, you're missing out and need to find one fast. Your mentor is not your line manager. It needs to be someone who's not directly dependent on your output. Find someone senior at the bank - preferably someone who has a great deal of clout. You want to turn this person into an uncle or aunt figure. That way you can share your personal ambitions with them and know they’ll give you the best advice, whether it’s what you want to hear or not.

3. Don’t mention to anyone you’re looking to move

Except, that is, to your mentor, whom you’ll have spent adequate time building a relationship with.

A friend of mine boasted to colleagues he was interviewing with other banks and, somehow, his line manager found out and confirmed it. That year he literally received nothing in bonus. A big, fat zero.

4. Stay put for a while

When you start a new job, you’re in learning mode. You’re acclimatizing. Getting to know the way things works. Meeting new people. Figuring out the internal politics. Once you’ve settled in and adjusted you’ll start making meaningful contribution and generating revenue for the bank. For this reason, you don't want to leave too soon.

Don’t leave before you’ve had a chance to lead or manage a number of important projects. You don’t want to face your next potential employer and have difficulty coming up with milestones you achieved in your current position.

5. Think beyond the money

I’m aware this an audience of bankers and would-be bankers. And saying that money shouldn’t be the driver of job change may elicit a few laughs. But that is the truth.

Money and rank seldom make you happy. Working with team members you genuinely like, having autonomy, and being passionate about your work is what counts.

The ibanker is a former bulge bracket investment banker who founded a family office-backed investment firm. He has written a guide, Breaking Into Investment Banking: An Unorthodox Approach, for students who want to break into investment banks, private equity firms, hedge funds and other financial institutions. If you use the offer code ‘efinancialcareers’ to buy this guide, you can get a 35% discount. 

Photo credit: Coy St. Clair/istock

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