Let’s say you’re an investment banker or work in private equity and you get invited to a cocktail party. While there, you get the dreaded question, “What do you do for a living?” (because very few people outside New York understand what investment bankers do).
Although I worked as an investment banker for Bear Stearns in London (back when that was still a firm), I’m pretty sure my own grandmother thought I worked as a teller at the local community bank. How could two banking jobs really be all that different? A bank is a bank, right?
Consequently, when people at a party now ask me “So, what do you do?”, I hesitate. During this brief pause, I can see approximately 10 seconds into the future, in three distinct stages:
Stage 1 – The does-not-compute look washes over their face. The gears are turning, but you can clearly see they are unable to get a lock on it.
Stage 2 – A flash of boredom. Technically, they are pre-bored. The recipient of pre-boredom has yet to realize that full-on boredom is plotting an attack, but they somehow sense it. The phrase “DEFCON 4” from the movie War Games echoes in their heads.
People who work in M&A have grown accustomed to this pre-bored look, because they have seen it repeatedly when discussing their profession at parties. Same for molecular biologists, cytotechnologists, U.S. cricket players and others who work in esoteric fields.
Stage 3 – Regret for asking and a silent expletive at the realization of being stuck at the party with That Guy.
These three stages all happen silently. Externally, they say, “Cool”, and look to see if they need a refill.
Of course, we know the above scenario is strictly hypothetical – because investment bankers don’t get invited to cocktail parties.
They used to get invited when they were younger, but have since turned down too many invitations, choosing to complete a financial model late at the office instead. By the time I-bankers reach an age where a “party” is called a “cocktail party”, they no longer get invited. Such is the life of a banker.
I now own a company in the information services sector, providing M&A research data to investment bankers and private equity firms. To the average person, this is a convoluted, 2nd derivative of incomprehensible careers.
P.S. Follow Past Midway if you would like an email notification of new posts.