There are two types of analyst that survive in investment banking. The first type is the analyst that works hard, is well liked by everyone and does amazing work. The second type is what I refer to as the Managing
Director Analyst or MA. The managing analyst is the analyst that is amazing at passing work on to other analysts, at pushing back and at somehow still making all the senior people love them.
An MA survives by managing the other analysts and doing as little grinding as possible. It’s not that these analysts don’t work hard; they just focus their efforts on establishing relationships with senior team members and other analysts. Unlike their grinding peers, they leverage their deeper understanding of the inner workings of the bank.
When you’re the other analyst, it’s easy to dislike the analyst that moves ahead without “grinding”. However, after three years of “grinding” myself to a promotion, I learned a valuable lesson from one of the Managing Analysts that worked in another group.
By the time I got promoted to associate I was tired, both physically and mentally. A few nights after I got promoted, I headed out to celebrate with a few friends. While out that night I ran into a few of the other freshly minted BMO associates.
I congratulated the other new associates and stopped to talk to one of the guys that I had worked with quite a bit. He was a full on Managing Analyst and after congratulating each other, he asked me what my stint as an analyst had been like. I told him it was a grind, to which he replied:
“That’s the problem. Too many analysts get burnt out grinding through their early years. I noticed after my first year that I wasn’t going to survive for three years by grinding and I knew I needed to find a different way to get promoted. You and I may have got here in different ways, both of which are totally legitimate, but sometimes you don’t have to work hard, you just need to work smart.”
Too many analysts get bogged down with working 100 hours a week and forget to take a step back and think. This was one of my biggest problems. I would grind and grind and grind. Working as an analyst, the more you grind and the more work you can do the more work you will be given.
If I could go back and talk to myself when I was a first year analyst I would tell myself to remember to work smart and not just hard. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have grinded, but I think it’s always important to take a step back and think about how you can do things in the best way possible.