Working on Wall Street was tough. I felt like I was constantly being hazed by anybody senior to me.
“Sam, go get me some coffee.”
“Sam, I ordered a double macchiato with almond milk, not a single macchiato with soy milk! Take it back!”
“Where the hell are my photocopies of the morning notes?!”
“Even a dog can do that!”
And so forth…
My analyst class quickly learned all about firm culture. We were never to deviate from such culture as written in our five commandments. Paying one's dues and respecting your elders was of vital importance. Any type of arrogance or display of entitlement was swiftly quashed by managing directors who all became mega-millionaires when Goldman Sachs went public in 1999.
Riding the Chairman's Flight to career suicide
Traveling was an integral part of my job, as I was required to visit clients all over the United States. In the beginning, it was incredibly exciting. When you have a hefty meal allowance and a corporate card with unlimited credit, getting on an airplane every week was pretty fun.
But all good things get boring after a while. Instead of taking the road warrior's red-eye flight across country, I began to cheat. Who really wants to fly for six hours in economy at 10 p.m. and land in time for a 8:30 a.m. meeting the next day? Not me. I wanted to check into the hotel, take a shower, and maybe even a nap if there was time.
One day I booked a still respectable 6:30 a.m. flight out west so I could still do meetings in the afternoon. That's when my Vice President reprimanded me.
“So, you're taking the Chairman's Flight now, eh, Sam? What's next, a massage at the Ritz-Carlton with some shrimp cocktail on the beach when you land?”
My VP was clearly joking, but he was joking in a disapproving way that basically told me to stop slacking off. In any normal person's world, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight is aggressive. But Wall Street is not a normal place. Working yourself to death is a badge of honor.
The reason it's called the Chairman's Flight is because only someone as senior as the chairman can fly during the middle of the day instead of work. The official time of departure is anytime between a leisurely 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Depart any later to the East Coast and you're landing too late to have a steak dinner at Peter Luger's.
Career-limiting moves to short-circuit your career
1) Forgetting to know your place. It doesn't matter whether you graduated top of your class at Harvard for undergrad or business school, when you join any organization, you start at the bottom. Coming in hot like a know-it-all, big swinger will surely make enemies of your colleagues and managers. Showing respect to your elders, even if they are junior to you in title is also very important. There's a reason why some of the most prestigious organizations actively recruit ex-athletes and military veterans; they always respect their elders. The ones who get ahead expertly manage both up and down.
2) Perpetually coming in late. Coming in early and leaving after everyone else takes no skill, just discipline. If you are perpetually coming in late, you are saying your personal time is more important than your work time. As a result, why would any company want to pay or promote you? If you can't be one of the first people in the office, then definitely be the last to leave. There is always some work to be done or something to learn. Definitely don't be last in and first out.
3) Constantly complaining. Complainers are always the first to get slaughtered when it's time to let people go. Nobody likes a complainer, especially the ones who complain about their colleagues, subordinates, and bosses. When there are millions of people dying from starvation and millions more who can't find a minimum-wage job, complaining just leaves a very poor taste. A complaint will always get around the office because nobody is able to keep their mouth shut either. Office gossip is like a juggernaut that cannot be stopped. Do not engage.
4) Frequently calling in sick on a Friday. Everybody knows that if you call in sick on a Friday you are probably bending the truth. There's only a 14.2 percent probability you will be sick on a Friday given there are seven days a week. Furthermore, there's less than a 50 percent probability you are actually sick enough to be contagious and not come into work. Hence, calling in sick on a Friday attacks your integrity, even if you are truly sick. If you want to booze it up with friends over a long weekend in Vegas, just come clean and ask for vacation time. Once you lose your colleagues' trust, it's all over.
5) Being exclusionary rather than inclusionary. Exclusionary people are too insecure with themselves to be good leaders. They are afraid others will steal their thunder and think someone is always out to get them. Insecure people are also some of the most dangerous people to interact with because their insecurity will lead to credit-taking of your work, not being open to accepting constructive criticism, and thinking they know more than they really do. There is no organization on Earth where success is the result of one person. Including your colleagues on key decisions not only makes them feel important, it actually brings new ideas and perspectives.
6) Hooking up with your boss. Unless you're getting married, your relationship with your boss will likely end in awkwardness and embarrassment. Even if you guys do get married, there's a 50 percent chance your marriage will fail. Bitter bosses will most likely shut you out from any career opportunities.
7) Never participating in company events. Social drinkers make more money and get paid faster. Why? Because they are more beloved by other colleagues and managers. Just as how relationships blossom with clients over a free lunch, the same thing happens over a beer or 10. If your workplace has a social culture that involves softball, happy hour, and group camping trips, it behooves you to participate. The person who doesn't will get ostracized.
8) Never showing gratitude. It's usually lower-level workers who constantly seek appreciation from higher-ups. But I recommend turning this formula around and consistently show gratitude to your bosses and colleagues by thanking them for their time and the opportunities they've given you. Take them out for lunch or a coffee one day as a show of appreciation. This type of reverse gratitude so rarely happens that your boss may go far beyond what you deserve when it comes time for a raise or promotion.
Your career is your number one moneymaker
Know that your career is most likely the number one way you'll be making money for the majority of your life. Treat your career like the precious 20-carat diamond that it is. Over time you'll polish your rock until it sparkles so brightly that your managers can't help but recognize your brilliance.
Author: Financial Samurai
Sam spent 13 years working on Wall Street in the equities department at a couple bulge bracket firms before deciding to focus full time on Financial Samurai, a personal finance site that helps you slice through money's mysteries. Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts in economics from The College of William & Mary. He is a registered representative (Series 7 and Series 63).
Sam is based in San Francisco, California, and enjoys playing league tennis, poker, and anything that deals with the great outdoors. Sam's goal is to live a location-independent lifestyle by generating enough passive income to take care of a family of four.