Only halfway through his first year as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, Jeremy Miller-Reed fell into a deep depression. The 100-hour work weeks and endless Excel spreadsheets he could handle. But his boss, Penelope, he could not. Penelope looked like Julia Roberts but had the personality of Genghis Khan. Junior analysts dreaded her wrath. After assigning a 20-page memo to Jeremy over her vacation, she returned to find a single page missing. "You had all week to get this right!" she screamed. That night, Jeremy went to the roof of his apartment, lit up a joint, and cried in the rain, thinking to himself I can't do this anymore.
In college, Jeremy, like most young financial analysts, was bright, motivated, and had high hopes. He graduated from Columbia University, and in the summer of 2010 was excited to begin a career at Goldman Sachs selling commodities—oil, gas, corn, wheat, precious metals. Lured by a starting salary of $70,000, plus bonuses of up to $50,000, he rationalized that a two-year stint as an investment banker would be good experience for a planned career in urban design or politics. It was a common decision among his peers. At Harvard in 2008, 28 percent of seniors headed into financial services, and at Princeton in 2006, it was a stunning 46 percent. But for Jeremy, it was a decision that would haunt him—as it would the sorry cast of Kevin Roose's new book Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash Recruits.
From 2010-2013, Roose, a business writer for New York magazine, shadowed eight freshly minted investment bankers during their first two years on Wall Street, tracking their stories. From starry-eyed interns to disillusioned, exhausted, and depressed spreadsheet jockeys, Roose's Young Money reads like a handbook for everything and anything than can go wrong with work.
Moral Black Hole
The work of young analysts is often mind-numbing. Most investment bank rookies spend days (and nights) creating "pitch books"—hundreds of pages of financial data for companies considering buying other companies. After hours of formatting cells, creating graphs, and producing Excel models, often pitch books would be blasted by bosses, or, even worse, skimmed and tossed aside by clients. It wasn't long before these young Ivy League graduates realized they had become "Excel grunts whose work is often meaningless not just in the cosmic sense, but in the sense of being seen by nobody and utilized for no productive purpose."
Work weeks in excess of 100 hours were not uncommon. As bosses left the office at 8pm, they'd often drop assignments on young analyst's desks, expecting them to be finished by the morning. (The banker's 9-5 for these recruits often meant arriving at 9am and staying until 5am the next morning.) They gained weight, lost girlfriends (or boyfriends), lived at the beck and call of fickle bosses, and often didn't see the sun for months.