Mastering the Death Stare

People who have recently received an investment banking job offer often ask me what they can do to prepare for Day 1. Undoubtedly, they know they are about to be in for a rough ride and they want to be as prepared as possible.

Most of them figure they should probably work at their financial modeling skills and while that may or may not be useful, here’s something that definitely is…

Master your death stare.

What’s a death stare? Outside of work, you would probably think of a death stare as locking eyes someone in order to express your burning rage. In banking, you aim the death stare at your computer; and though you don’t need to emit a constant stream of ocular fury, the message you want to be broadcasting is that you are so unbelievably focused on your work that you’re likely to go thermonuclear on anyone that interrupts you.

Why is this so important? Basically, the death stare allows you to be productive and efficient in an environment that can be brilliantly chaotic. If you get annoyed when someone answers their phone at the library, imagine phones going off non-stop, ad-hoc meetings going on around people’s desks in the middle of the bullpen, people laughing hysterically at something on YouTube, and unrelenting arguments on all topics large and small. Now, imagine that instead of studying for 4 or 5 exams where only you will be disappointed if you underperform, you’re now studying for 20 exams and any underperformance will result in a backlash from a whole team of coworkers. Such is the life of a freshly minted banker.


Death Stare

Lock yourself into the death stare, close off the world around you and force people to literally have to shake you to break you out of your trance. For even better results throw on a solid pair of F*** You headphones (i.e. over the ear) and get the beats going to drown out the conversations around you.

To me, being ready to work in this crazy environment is the most important thing you can do before starting Day 1 on the job. All the financial modeling prep in the world, just isn’t going to be helpful if you can’t get anything done when you’re in the office.

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