Seven Deadly Career Sins

If you’ve been raised as the progeny of Western Civilization, then you’re probably aware of the Seven Deadly Sins. If you went to Catholic school, then you can rattle them right off:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Even if you’re not from around here, you still are very likely to have a similar litany of prohibitions. If you’re Hindu, for example, you are possibly proscribed from the Arishadvargas, the six negative passions, which map almost one-to-one with the list established by Pope Gregory I and later popularized by the poet Dante Alghieri. (Good news, Hindus, you’re allowed sloth.)  So what does this have to do with pursuing your investment banking career?

At this point, you might be saying, “Sure, but if it wasn’t for greed, nobody would be going into investment banking in the first place.” Fair point. Fortunately, the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald suggests a new list of seven sins for the career-minded professional, and greed didn’t make the cut.

According to columnist Sylvia Pennington, the following bad behaviors are to be avoided at all cost:

  1. Arrogance: Maybe you really do know it all — that merely primes you to “remain the smartest person who never got promoted.”
  2. Spinelessness: The best leaders understand they themselves don’t have all the answers. That’s why one of them hired you. Don’t display the boss’s ignorance in front of clients or your firm’s upper echelon, but below decks you owe him or her the courage of your convictions.
  3. Selfishness: There might be no I in “team,” but GS, JPMC, AIG, HSBC, VTB and BMO all get along perfectly well without “U”. You want to get noticed? Get noticed for being a team player.
  4. Ruthlessness: Quality of life isn’t just about acquiring things. It’s about acquiring friends. If you’ve even gotten in the door of an investment banking firm, then you’re already associating with the kind of people you’ve selected to spend your life with. Some of them might be your competitors in the deal you’re working on today, but any and all of them can be lifelong friends. If they like you. If they trust you.
  5. Incompetence: If you wanted to never have to learn anything new, you should’ve majored in history. Banking is always changing. Stay informed. Stay current. Stay sharp.  
  6. Laggardness: Don’t just expect change, embrace it. Enjoy it. Advocate for it. Be that individual who suggests process improvements. Remember, the person who raises their hand is usually the one who gets assigned the task. Are you up for the challenge? 
  7. Drunkenness: The point of loosening up at work functions is to build camaraderie, not to get polluted on somebody else’s tab. Being a boorish sot can, and will, get you fired. “I was drunk, and you were buying the drinks” is not an excuse for bad behavior. If the boss can’t tolerate your actions at the risk of creating a precedent, drunk or sober, you will be escorted out.

Notice what cardinal investment banking sin is not on the list? “Don’t get caught.” It’ll go better for you if you just assume that, if you commit any one of the enumerated sins, you will. So don’t.

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