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Goldman Sachs MD to junior bankers everywhere: "It gets easier"

If you're at the start of a banking career and are wondering whether it's really the right thing for you to do, then Rebecca Anderton-Davies has some advice: stick with it.

Anderton-Davies is the Goldman Sachs MD with a sideline in yoga and writing. She's the Goldman Sachs MD who says work-life balance is "bullsh*t" because it simplifies and obscures the complexities of life. She's also the MD who nearly left banking altogether, but didn't.

In her new book, Shifting the Dials, Anderton-Davies says she nearly quit banking before her career began. "After long, scary days full of errors and self-doubt, I’d walk slowly back to my flat and call my parents in floods of tears, telling them the only thing I was sure of was that I’d made a massive mistake," she confesses. She even applied to the civil service as a result - and was rejected. 

Anderton-Davies didn't leave banking. She stayed, but moved to a different bank (Goldman Sachs) and a different job (FX sales trading) and slowly edged her way forward. 10 years later, and after two more shifts into tangential jobs (relationship management and running Goldman's ETF Accelerator in EMEA), she was promoted to managing director (MD) at Goldman.

For people at the start of their banking careers, who are wondering about the job and the lifestyle, Anderton Davies has two messages: the grass isn't necessarily greener elsewhere; and it's always hard when you start out. 

You might think you want to be an entrepreneur or an influencer and that's fine, but don't consider that it's an easy option, says Anderton Davies. - "What is more relentless and critical and unforgiving: a boss or an algorithm or a customer or an investor? I’ve done the first three and I can tell you which I prefer."

She says the early years of any career are hard and christens them, "The Progressively Less Shit Years." When you leave university and start a job in your early 20s, it can "feel like total shit," says Anderton-Davies. You're afflicted by "unmet psychological needs," you don't really understand what the role requires, and you don't understand how to do the job in a way that's authentic to you. It can be overwhelming, especially when you've fought incredibly hard to get that job in the first place.

But while Anderton-Davies doesn't hold back in her classification of early career experiences as often horrible, she's also robust in urging juniors to break through the pain barrier.  "Many, many people at the start of careers – irrespective of age and stage – feel like this." Over time, it subsides: the mistakes become less frequent, the terror lessens, things start to make sense. 

Once you've broken through the barrier once, it becomes easier to do it over and over again, says Anderton Davies of her four different jobs in banking. "Forever onwards, I would have the lived experience of having been through it before. I would know that I could not only survive, but thrive." It's a cycle, she says: First you're out of your depth; then you find your footing; then you achieve mastery.

The worst thing you can do is to leave banking (or any job) during the shit years, says Anderton-Davies. "You need to stay to reap the biggest benefits: interesting content, roles that better suit your skills and preferences, control over your time, highest pay, operating in a state of ‘flow’. The first few years of almost all careers are decidedly not all those things."

And if you leave? You'll probably have to go through the same pain elsewhere. "Many times, quitting is resetting the timer rather than escaping it."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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