by Brian DeChesare Comments (22)

Got Resolutions? (That You Can Actually Keep?)

Finance New Year's Resolutions

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time of year where New Year’s Eve indiscretions are now just obscure memories for reflection, as hopeful New Year’s resolutions are being scribbled down on napkins and Post-It notes.

But too often those promising resolutions suffer a fate similar to that age-old agreement between male and female friends to try and be “friends with benefits.” Sure, it sounds like a great idea, and heck, it even works well for the first couple of months.

But sooner or later, reality sets in: you can’t keep coming into the dealership every weekend to test drive the Maserati. Eventually, that sales representative is going to give you a long look in the eyes and politely ask you: “Are you going to @#$%** buy this car or what?”

So how do you turn your New Year’s resolutions into a metallic colored Maserati Gran Turismo with red coral interior?

Or better yet, how can you make New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep – even when you’re working 80+ hours per week in finance?

The First Step to a Better Resolution is Admitting That You Have a Resolution Problem

Studies show that more than 80% of people fall short of their New Year’s resolutions before the end of February, so how do you keep from being a statistic?

The first step: Don’t confuse dreams with resolutions. I would walk a half mile barefoot across hot coals and shards of glass to own a Maserati, but the dream of owning that type of car at this point in my life is just that: a dream.

If I want that dream to materialize, my resolution should be the intermediate steps I need to take to earn the money necessary to buy that type of car. Resolutions are actually declarative statements toward a dream or goal.

“I want to look like a bodybuilder.” That’s a lofty goal.

“I want to get to the gym three times per week.” That’s a measurable resolution.

“I want to enjoy more of my life.” That’s a very vague goal.

“I want to travel once a month to a new destination.” That’s a practical resolution.

Long story short, a resolution must be a viable and actionable plan.

How to Get Your “Four Weeks Committed” Resolution Chip

“Hi. My name is (Your Name Here), and I have a problem keeping my New Year’s resolutions.”

No problem Mr. or Mrs. “Anonymous.” From ambitious weight loss pledges, to unrealistic professional designation goals, we’ll examine a few common resolutions that go awry and how to prevent that from happening.

My goal is to help you maintain that new resolution from now until December 31st.

On that day, if you’ve sustained your resolution from start to finish, you deserve to celebrate your achievement before the start of a new year. Note: mild indulgence and gluttony are not synonymous.

Auld Lang Syne – Your “Do-Over”

“I’m going to finally escape banking and move to the buy-side this year!”

Yes, you and every other junior banker, trader, salesperson, and equity research analyst.

This seems like a great plan, but you’ll need to get more specific to actually have a chance of pulling this off.

If you walk into a recruiting firm and tell the headhunter that you “want to move to the buy-side,” he or she will realize that there’s zero chance in placing you anywhere given your ambiguous goals.

Before you re-write your resume and spin your experience appropriately, you need to figure out which area you’re most interested in: Private Equity? Hedge Funds? Asset Management?

Then, figure out what your industry focus is: Value-Oriented investing? Real Estate? Global Macro?

For the cherry on top, you also need to narrow down your geographical location: Do you want to work in New York? London? Hong Kong? Small town in the middle of nowhere? (Not recommended)

A much better resolution: “I’m going to get into a mid-sized private equity firm that invests in tech or healthcare companies on the west coast of the US.”

And as an added bonus, with that kind of resolution headhunters might start returning your calls, too.

 “I’m going to the gym every other day. I’m gonna be jacked by June.”

Here is another resolution that’s too general and completely unrealistic.

Watching vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger weightlifting videos on YouTube can motivate almost anyone to get into the gym and hit the weights.

But remember, Arnold was a professional bodybuilder. Before the hit movie Kindergarten Cop and the public relationship scandal of Shrivergate, Schwarzenegger won multiple Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe titles!

Your dream can be to work toward eventually looking like the Terminator, but your resolution should be to develop a regular, reasonable schedule for going to the gym.

I would assume that if your resolution starts out by saying, “I want to get to the gym…”, then you’ve probably just learned where the nearest gym is located. You need to take baby steps before you attempt to run at full speed.

A better overall resolution to working out is, “I will go to the gym two times a week for an hour and a half each day.” Making a resolution similar to this one can develop the confidence and consistency needed for you to continue to work out in order to see results.

Remember, your resolutions should be intermediate steps toward a larger goal.

And yes, it’s possible to maintain a regular gym schedule even in investment banking: just focus on intense spurts of exercise, commit to a minimum number of weekly workouts, and take every available opportunity to reach your weekly goal when your work schedule permits.

“I’m going to study for the CFA, CPA, MMA, and the PGA.”

Did I read that correctly?

So in addition to a full-time job, you’re going to study for two major financial designations while simultaneously working on your ground-and-pound fighting style and golf swing? Unless you’ve successfully cloned yourself, get real.

Every year I have friends that seem to think that they’re going to do everything they want to do in their lifetime within the span of one calendar year.

If Rome wasn’t built in a day, how can you expect to fulfill one-fourth of your bucket list in 52 weeks?

Choose one designation to study for and develop a hobby on the side. Studying for one professional designation is tough enough.

Attempting to study for two professional designations in addition to maintaining a fulltime job is just insane. Focus exclusively on one test and once you’ve conquered that task, then you can move on to others.

As far as preparing for the PGA, MMA, or PBA, it’s probably best to choose one of these activities and make it a hobby.

Over the course of the year if you discover that you want to invest more time in your activity, then do so after careful consideration of your time commitment to the other areas of your life.

It’s also a good idea to remember that it may be a bit of a challenge to study for the CFA with a swollen eye or broken forearm.

“I’m going to start day-trading. I’m going to make a fortune so I can quit my day job!”

Or you’re going to lose a fortune if you don’t have a proper trading strategy around your ambition.

If you’re new to the world of day-trading, the first step to success is to familiarize yourself with various strategies (assuming you already know the basics of trading) and pick one: Are you going to focus on a particular sector? What data indicators will you focus on? How will you evaluate performance?

What software will you use? What broker will you select? Do you intend to use margin? All these elements factor into your overall trading strategy.

Trading casually and pledging to make a regular day job out of it are entirely opposite each other. Managing the positions in your IRA does not require the vigilance and active research that is necessary to be a day trader.

In short, day-trading is a full-time job. I have never met a person who has maintained a full-time job and worked successfully as a day trader – and if you’re thinking of starting your own hedge fund, that’s definitely a full-time job.

And for the record, the movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper was fictional.

“I’m going to break a few bad habits.”

Once again, this resolution is too vague and it probably won’t last more than two months. What exactly are your bad habits? Are they habits or addictions? Are we talking about your addiction to bottle service, or your addiction to psychostimulants?

A popular bad habit that people vow to break over the course of a new year is smoking. Unless you’re a social smoker, smoking is an addiction and very few people can simply just make a New Year’s resolution to quit an addiction.

I know the thought of sitting around in a circle with strangers talking about how many packs you smoke a day, how many shoes you buy on any given weekend, or how many episodes of the latest TV show you watch a day can make most people uncomfortable, but if it helps to break your addiction, go for it.

New Year’s resolutions are about setting intermediate goals to be a better person in your eyes in the immediate future and over the long haul, so if you need help to get to achieve that goal, get help.

There is a laundry list of unhealthy vices and it’s important to distinguish between what is a habit and what may be an addiction.

Resolutions can reform habits, not addictions. That, is unless you make a resolution to go to “(Your Addiction Here) Anonymous.”

Great Expectations

So raise your wine glasses; here’s to a New Year filled with promise, better resolutions, and great expectations.

Hopefully you didn’t resolve to drink less. I can’t support that.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, running, traveling, obsessively watching TV shows, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. I like this site. Good work.

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear it

  2. Hello, I’m currently a second semester junior @ a target university in the US. I became interested in i-banking recently and went through the on-campus recruiting process with only a week or so of preparation time and no prior networking. As expected, I bombed completely. I really want things to be different for full-time recruiting next fall so I was wondering what are some good next steps I should take during this term and the summer? Thanks very much.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      This term – join an investment club, familiarize yourself with the markets, take finance/accounting classes, network and try to land yourself an internship in finance

  3. Augustus Orlington

    To M&I, although my tone in previous comments might suggest mockery, you deserve praise for what you are doing here.

    The core of your advice is relevant to all geographical markets and is generally spot-on.

    I was also recommended Wall Street Oasis, which seems to be mainly populated by undergraduate “ballers”, or to quote the americanism “douchebags”.

    You provide a valuable service and if any University students approach me for advice I would certainly point them in your direction.

  4. Augustus Orlington

    Good response Ryan.

    I reckon (for what it’s worth) that resilience is the most important attribute for those looking to get in to banking.

    You seem to have the gun and roses, so why not aim a little higher than Icap?

    Not to say it isn’t a good enough job, but if you really want to work in S&T, surely a big ol’ bank is the way to start (particularly in terms of your appeal to recruiters a few years down the line).

    Lastly, I wasn’t suggesting that oxbridge is a pre-requisite for banking, but in the current recruitment market, where demand massively outsrips supply, one way for HR to filter applications is by University. It’s just easy to get rid of 50% of applications because they don’t have a pedigree institution on the cover.

    Nonetheless, wish you all the best. Perhaps I’ll hear you chirping prices on the other end of the phone in the not-too-distant future…

    1. Heh, I thank you for the compliments. I have been fortunate to interview at a couple of BBs but sadly received no offer. Whilst in one of my JP Morgan interviews I was fortunate enough to speak to a Sales Trader and he said VERY similar things to you lol (including your opinion of broking, although he did rank ICAP somewhat higher than the rest). If I were fortunate to land an offer from a BB I would take it, but sadly I haven’t been so fortunate so far.

      I will be applying for BBs again come next year for graduate roles (unless I fall in love with the broker life style), and I’ve heard of quite a lot of people who went from an ICAP summer internship to a BB sales role, mainly because they know that you’re a lot more likely to get on with the clients which is one of the most important aspects.

      But thank you for the advice, I hope our paths may cross again in the future. And best of luck with your applications/internships/graduate jobs whatever stage you’re at :)

      1. Augustus Orlington

        Ryan, thanks for the kind sentiments.

        Fortunately in some respects, I am no longer in the grad scheme system, which means I don’t deal with recruiting from this perspective any longer.

        In fact, in all honesty, I heard about this site from a colleague and had a look around out of curiousity. Our brothers in America are very amusing n’est pas?

        I think you can be assured by the fact that in the UK, although the bar is obviously still high, once you can get in front of recruiters it comes down to likeability much more than in NY. This “networking” thing is useful, I suppose, but working through a checklist of arbitrary metrics is more yank in approach than British. Here, assuming you meet certain benchmarks, the question of “can I work with this guy” plays a big role.

        I should admit, too that I have only now read your original comment properly. Interships are a different kettle all together to jobs. I would try to do both interships. If this is impractical, I would suggest looking at what sort of work you want to be doing in your career.

        The big difference between broking and AM is that broking is quick, intense, think on your feet stuff, whereas AM, particularly at your level, is about analysis and considered decision. In terms of prospects, AM is an industry that will be alive and well in 15 years, which I would sugest voice broking will not be.

        Pay-wise, at grad level, big funds will probably be similar to ICAP, but pay in broking will obviously have a bigger bonus element.

        My advice would be to decide what you want from your career. If you want the “buzz” of S&T then broking is probably for you. If you are really good, you will be able to break big banks. However, as previously stated, as the role of voice broker disappears, the number of jobs in big banks will shrink and eventually vanish, so transferable skills will be essential if you dgo down this route.

        The City has changed since the last century in that it generally allows those who want it enough, to do very well. If you break you back to achieve your goals, you will do. Being a pleasant, person to work with will get you even further.

        Wish you good luck. I’m off to “network” with private equity to improve my “exit opps” (promise I’m not taking the piss M&I).

  5. Hi Brian,

    I’m currently a second year university student in the UK. I’ve done quite extensive research into the sell-side of investment banking but I lack in knowledge of the buy-side. I currently am sitting on a summer internship offer for voice broking at ICAP, an internship that I’m really interested in as it’s a career path I may potentially really enjoy but won’t know without any real experience. If I decide its not for me, I’m most interested in going into sales (I’ve been advised that the internship at ICAP would most likely put me in fairly good stead in transfering to sales at a BB).

    However, my question is about buy-side. I potentially will be able to secure a summer internship offer in an Alternative Investments arm of an asset management with assets of about 150-200billion under their control. What is it about the buy-side that makes so many people from the sell-side wish to make the jump? Would I be crazy to turn down an offer for a summer internship at such an asset management? Not that it is my sole motivator, but what would you expect the salary to be similar to that of a sales role at a BB or ICAP voice broking?

    I will also add that I’m not at a “target university” (just outside, still top 10), I have no previous finance experience and the small amount of contacts I possess have been secured through my own networking.

    I greatly appreciate any response, as its a real dilemma that I’m currently facing and I’m really not sure what to do.

    I’m a big fan of this site even though its aimed at M&A I find a lot the information relevant for S&T and I thank you and your team very much for that.

    1. Augustus Orlington

      By “top 10” do you mean some grubby shit-hole up north?

      If so, better to focus your efforts on accountancy. There are plenty of candidates from oxbridge (and the petit oxbridges, eg warwick, lse, etc), who struggle to get a bloody job.

      Anybody defining their alma mater as “top 10”, is implicitedly stating it was number 10. Suggest you give up the dream, old cock.

      PS, voice broking may, in your world be high finance, but in reality it’s a sales gig. No different to selling double-glazing. If you do make it in the city as a voice broker (won’t even mention the fact that the industry is in decay), be expected to be treated like the dog-shit that you are (as a broker). Toodle-pip.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on your goals and the team – I think the internship at the AM firm is an interesting opportunity which you might want to pursue. Salary levels? I don’t think it will be comparable to a sales role at BB but not sure about ICAP voice broking

      Why people want to move to buyside? Better hours (can be true and untrue at times), in PE/HF (higher pay but depends on your performance), and having a sense of “ownership” if you know what I mean – you are working in a smaller organization and your decisions can potentially make a bigger impact. You might be able to own equity in some circumstances too

      1. @ Augustus, your comment cracked me up. It’s a shame that just going to oxbridge isn’t the only thing that gets you a job, and it turns out interviewers are quite interested in a second year who has set up his own business. Also, I’m fully aware of the role of a voice broker lol, but funnily enough I’d prefer to be a voice broker based around the market hours going out a few nights a week than an M&A analyst who’s working 100 hour weeks having to do nitty-gritty work all day. But I thank you for advice and wish you the best ;)

        @Nicole, thank you very much for your reply. Based on your advice I think I will continue to pursue AM opportunities and learn more about the roles during the interview process to see if I think it will suit me or not. Hopefully from that I can gauge which career to pursue as a graduate role. Thanks!

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes keep interviewing!

  6. “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” Damn, I just realized that was 3 recessions ago …

    Got CFA, don’t care on CPA & MMA, so that leaves PGA. Unfortunately, I believe my “habit” of smoking cigars and drinking beer on the golf course is a minor hinderance.

    Seriously, though, good advice on coming up with a much more specific plan to move to the buy side. I see the vagueness in candidates all the time … just imagine your ideal job and then go after it.

  7. Great article, it’s important to read something like this every few weeks or so to refocus yourself. Thanks

  8. Nice article – it was unexpected and a pleasant break from the usual advice given on this site (but don’t get me wrong, I am on this site for the great articles usually written about Wall Street/Ibanking/finance etc – keep ’em coming!) Keep up with all the good work! I love you guys!

    1. Thanks! Yes I like to take a break and feature different types of content occasionally, which is easier when you have many contributors.

  9. …was in Kindergarten Cop, not Daddy Daycare

  10. Wasnt Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care? His jackedness is far more attainable too

    1. Hah, yes, good point.

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