20 Things I Wish Someone Told Me The Day I Started My Career As An Analyst On Wall Street 

November 8, 2020

Recently, I held a Zoom Q&A session with our 175 second and third year Analysts at Jefferies and one of the many great questions I received was, “What was something I wish someone told me the day I started as an Analyst?”  I answered the question, but it really got me thinking about what else was on my list.  Since I strongly believe that life is not a zero sum game and we are all in this together (especially during a pandemic), I thought I would share my more complete list with anyone who cared to take a few minutes to listen to a “boomer” who at least in his mind can still remember what it was like to be an Analyst on Wall Street and what he could have done better.  In no specific order:

  1. I wish I made a stronger effort to develop relationships with the junior folks of every client I dealt with.  So many of those junior people are today’s amazing leaders in various industries and even in society at large.  When you take the time to truly develop a relationship with someone who is also at the age of fighting to become relevant, that bond can become a foundation that can last a lifetime.  When trust is established because you make them look good to their seniors by helping them, amazingly they reciprocate to the people you report to.  Suddenly it is no longer a client/servicer relationship, but a prized partnership.  This is one way careers are made.
  2. I wish I took the time to not only focus exclusively on whatever task I was (overwhelmed) trying to accomplish but I also took the time to learn what my peers were working on.  Obviously, there wasn’t enough time in the day to become expert in everything, but by picking your head up and forcing yourself to be aware of as many aspects of our industry, products, geographies, and industry verticals, you will have a much better chance of pro-actively determining your best career path.  Just because you started in one specific product, group or geography doesn’t mean that the best thing for you is to lock yourself in forever. 
  3. I wish someone told me how important it was to truly get to know, support and appreciate your fellow junior co-workers.  It is crystal clear to me today that there was never any real competition and the people who developed the trust, respect and fellowship of their fellow Analysts were the ones who went on to have the best careers (and enjoyment).  The sharp elbowed, game-playing, hyper-competitive people who may have burst out of the gate early are generally  the ones who washed out.  The ones who helped others in a selfless manner and made everyone around them better were the ones who won the career marathon. 
  4. I wish I fully realized how wrong “group think” or following the general consensus truly is, especially when you are a junior person (but also throughout your career).  Decisions about what firms, industries, products, groups, geographies, MDs, VPs, Associates, Graduate Schools or clients are the “hot” ones you desperately want to position yourself towards are usually wrong if you are just basing your decision on what “everyone thinks.”  Do your own work and then make the decision for yourself.  Circumstances are very different for each person and sometimes the direction that is perceived to be the worst spot can actually be the best spot and vice versa.  It’s fine to ask opinions and understand what people you respect think.  But, you must also do your own work and incorporate that into every major decision. 
  5. I wish someone told me that while all of the pressure induced by peers, seniors and myself were real, if I don’t also find time for some degree of balance for personal health, family and relationships I will burn out and be of no use to my co-workers, my company, myself or anyone.
  6. I wish someone told me that no matter how life and death everything I was currently working on was, it wasn’t.
  7. I wish someone told me that while it is very important to get all of the work product out accurately and timely, it is even more important for my personal development to constantly step back and think about the actual content and conclusions of what I just spent so much time “cranking out.”  If you just “do” and rarely “think and process,” you cannot grow.
  8. I wish someone told me (and I had the self-confidence at the time) to politely tell people who were taking advantage of me and showing zero respect that it was not acceptable and I wouldn’t put up with it. 
  9. I wish I asserted myself more to try to make sure I was in client meetings, phone calls and pitches.  The senior person can always say no and life will go on, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Also, the self-imposed excuse that you are too busy trying to process the next assignment to see the last one in action is lame.  Just waste less time so you can participate and do your next assignment too.
  10. I wish I spoke up more when I had ideas about how to make something better rather than just do what was asked.  It may be more work but it could also be the difference maker so why not try.  Also, when someone tells you why the extra work isn’t necessary you start to understand what really is important.
  11. I wish I made the effort to keep in better touch with all of the people (including the senior ones) that I worked with after I left the Analyst program.  You never know. 
  12. I wish I made a better effort to understand the sales, trading and research part of the picture when I was working on the banking side.  I made the transition after graduate school to sales and trading (which is where I stayed) and if you don’t eventually understand how both sides relate, you will be limited in your ability to add value to all constituencies.  If you are in sales, trading or research, pay attention to banking!
  13. I wish I took the time to better process the culture of the organization I was with.  What was good?  What needed work?  How did it affect the organization?  What aspects were important to me long-term?
  14. I wish I had a greater appreciation at the time that the analyses I was doing covered the most important issues facing companies which are really living and breathing organizations that impacted real people.  It’s easy to forget when you are dealing with so many zeros that the problems you are trying to help companies’ CEOs and management teams solve truly affect their company’s overall financial health, ability to navigate volatility in the macro environment, merger possibilities and significant asset sales.  I was not moving large digits around on a spreadsheet, but I was doing work that often had real life important implications on a lot of people who were depending on us for accuracy and help. 
  15. I wish I took more time to get to know more of my co-workers out of the office.
  16. I wish I took the time to learn more of the history of my company from before I joined and did more research to develop a better understanding of our clients’ prior history so I could better understand why everyone was facing their current challenges and opportunities. 
  17. I wish I had the nerve to approach some of the people that seemed to be the most impressive, successful, interesting and fun so I got some personal exposure and they got a chance to know who I was.
  18. I wish I took more vacations and completely detached.
  19. I wish I had gotten more involved with recruiting younger recent graduates to join.  Helping identify great talent and convincing them to join you is an important skill to always improve and it is great when you help make a difference in someone else’s life.
  20. I wish I appreciated the opportunity even more than I did because despite all of the aggravation, endless work, and living so low on the totem pole, if you do your job right at a quality firm as an Analyst it will truly provide you with experience, skills, perspective and relationships that will last a lifetime.  This will be extremely useful whether you dedicate yourself to a career in finance or something entirely unrelated. 

I’m sure I missed many other thoughts, but now there is no excuse for any of you to say you wish someone told you these 20 while you were still working as an Analyst on Wall Street.

Stay Safe and Strong,


CEO, Jefferies Financial Group
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Pronouns: he, him, his