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How to get through 100-hour weeks in an investment bank

Some boutique investment banks on Wall Street have a reputation for being “sweatshops”.  This is well deserved. There are plenty of boutiques where you can expect to work 80, and even 100 hours a week during peak busy periods.

Investment banking boutiques are brutal employers and burnout is common. The way to survive or thrive is finding a routine and sticking to it without fail. You suddenly go from screwing around in college and working as little as, say, three hours a week on school work to being staffed on deals requiring 80-plus active hours a week at your desk.

As someone who's lived through it, these are my survival tips to avoid crashing and burning.

Create your own routine

Investment banking rarely gets boring because there's no built-in routine, but this can also cause a lot of stress as you can't plan ahead around your work schedule. That can also cause your social life and personal relationships to suffer and lead to burnout. Based on my observations, these are some techniques for getting a bit of relaxation in your life.

Make time to think:  I have a colleague who walks to work every morning – as long as he doesn’t wake up to an emergency email. This helps make up for the exercise that he no longer gets. At night, no matter how tired he is, he will read at least two chapters of a book. It doesn’t matter what genre. The point is to allow him to think about something else besides work so that work isn’t on his mind 24/7 and consumes him even when he’s away from the office trying to relax.

Focus on exit options: Another colleague says everyone he knows in the industry is facing some level of depression and small mental breakdowns are unfortunately common. Therefore you need to have a positive attitude and find your own coping mechanisms to survive. His coping mechanism is thinking through a business plan for a future start-up. He was just putting his two years as an investment banking analyst first. 

If you're not planning on a start-up, you can try alternatives like booking a vacation well in advance so that I have something to look forward to.

Exercise, don't overeat:  Another colleague works out at 7:30 a.m. every day, no matter how tired he is, unless he's had to pull an all-nighter. 

As every associate knows but some analysts learn the hard way, don’t go ridiculous on the meal allowance, because that just destroys you. You will gain a ton of weight and your health will deteriorate. There are healthy options that my friends and I get on most days. At my firm, we get $35 dollars a day and it can get bad really quickly. Most people combat this by buying dinner and lunch for the next day with the dinner allowance – healthy body, healthy mind.

Stephan Posse is the pseudonym of a former analyst at a boutique investment bank in New York.

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AUTHORStephan Posse Insider Comment

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