like everything in life, navigating the confusing intertwining branches and brambles of the financial analyst jungle is a game. winning requires steady focus, a strong stomach and disposition, and the expectation that you will get shat on multiple times per day. i have compiled below a short list of tips and tricks to help analysts orient themselves in the fast paced environment, full of egos and death traps that will take the most promising career at the drop of a hat, to ultimately succeed in the race to the top.
1. make sure to get a loud keyboard: if they can’t see you working, they better hear you working. sometimes i would intentionally slam away on my keyboard to make sure those around me know that i am cranking out memos. even when playing yahoo! text twist, i make the keyboard my bitch everytime i type a letter. a sub-tip would be to increase your typing and decrease your mouse clicking when bosses approach.
2. always look busy as hell, but accept new assignments happily: even if you are surfing dealbreaker and playing minesweeper, as soon as your boss comes around, do the following: sigh but with a smile on your face, appear flustered but eager to take on the new task, and say “i have a lot on my plate right now, but i feel this new assignment will help me learn more about [insert boring subject here] i am more than happy to accept.” this will give everyone the illusion that you are working much harder than you are, but also that you enjoy more responsibilities, which will land you the position of ‘go-to analyst’.
3. do not make eye contact with anyone on friday afternoons: everyone needs their weekend. just because you are working at a bulge bracket bank suckling the tender teats of egos-gone-awry does not mean you are forced eat seamless orange-chicken at your desk on a friday night. friday afternoons is right when bosses come around the floor looking for defenseless prey who would happily spend their weekends working on an assignment that will ultimately be tucked away into a folder on the shared drive for nobody else to see. when friday 2pm rolls around, you better glue your eyes to dealbreaker.com or minesweeper and hope to sneak out by 5pm. being well rested on weekends will undeniably restore energy for the upcoming work week.
4. know your windows hotkeys: this tip really should have gone unspoken. if you don’t know basic windows hotkeys, then shame on you. you don’t belong behind a computer, let alone working as a financial analyst. alt-tab, alt-escape are wonderful for when your boss comes over and you were just watching a hilarious video on geekologie, and you need to give off the impression that you were cranking away at an excel model.
5. leave a jacket or bag at your desk even after you leave for the day: this will give off the impression that you just stepped away momentarily from your desk and that you plan to return to continue working. should someone request your immediate attention on something via email, just respond saying you were downstairs grabbing a coffee from the nearby deli and will return (begrudgingly) shortly. bonus points for: changing your screensaver to an excel spreadsheet, jamming a pencil into your spacebar to keep the screensaver from appearing, using a fake cellphone or purse to solidify the impression that you will be returning shortly, and creating a complete body double to sit in your place to do your work. EDIT: can also leave a half-eaten apple or sandwich on your desk, but there are some risks to this tactic–if maggots or flies appear on the food, then either your illusion of constantly working is shattered or people start thinking you are disgusting (contributed by Shelley Yang).
the key is to remember that retention compensation is not directly correlated with the quality and output of your work over the past year, but it is based entirely on the perception of the quality and output of your work over the past year. of course, it doesn’t hurt to actually take pride in the quality of your work, but if you neglect to play the game for what its worth, you may not be doing yourself a favor.