Morning Coffee: Ex-Goldman partner's advice: find a "sanity buddy." The M&A banker drought
Have you ever worked so hard that you forgot what day it is? How about which month? Which season? Lisa Shalett, a former Goldman Sachs partner and MD, would understand.
When she worked for Goldman, Shalett says she was "so in the zone" that, "if you happened to tap me on the shoulder and say, 'What month is it?', I wouldn't know. Sometimes I'd be super way off in terms of seasons. Sometimes I'd finish a contact lens box and I'd be, 'Holy shit! A whole month has gone by.'"
Shalett retired from Goldman in 2014/2015. During 20 years at the firm, she held a lot of different jobs. She was a managing director and then a partner in the global equities division. She was the head of international equities and co-head of U.S. shares institutional sales. And she was the global COO of compliance, legal and audit, and head of brand marketing and digital strategy. Since leaving Goldman in 2015, Shalett has reinvented herself as a mentor to bankers who'd like to leave the industry, an investor, and an advisor to start-ups. In a long conversation with Khe Hy, the Blackrock MD who retired at 35, she discusses how hard it is to leave a big job in finance, and why doing so need not be the end of the world.
Finance jobs are intense says Shalett, and that intensity is often self-imposed. When she worked for Goldman, Shalett says she actively set out to do her best every day: "I compared myself to my own standards, which I kept nothing up higher and higher." Although she was a partner, she still worked late: "My husband would say to me, 'Can’t you leave earlier? How senior do you have to be that you don’t have to stay to do that Powerpoint?'" Work took up a lot of her, "bandwidth," or "mental capacity":
Eventually, life compelled Shalett to take a step back. Her sons were teenagers and her workaholic father had passed away: Shalett reevaluated and decided time was too precious to spend entirely upon work. She says a similar cycle affects a lot of people in the industry. Births, deaths, teenager children, or illness compel them to take a step back and question whether the jobs that consume all their time are what they really want to be doing. This can be tough whenever, but especially when other things are going on.
Shalett's advise to anyone working in a high intensity role in finance is to preempt these moments. Instead of waiting for life events to initiate existential crises, she advises having, "sanity buddies." These are friends with whom, twice a year, you discuss the value of your time. "Make sure you are asking yourself questions about whether this is the life you want to lead," says Shalett. "Whether this is the way you want to interact with the relationships in your life. Whether you want to pursue hobbies apart from work." The answer may be that your current life is fine, but if it's not, you can stay in control while you start exploring the alternatives - instead of doing so during the life crises that will inevitably come.
Separately, big banks aren't training up enough M&A bankers and the boutiques that like to poach them have noticed. So says Ken Jacobs, the CEO of Lazard. "There’s just not as much talent being created in the firms that people are used to recruiting from, as was the case in the past,” Jacobs complains to Bloomberg. "For the firms that are spending tons on hiring from the outside to grow, it’s been a bit more challenging.”
Maybe boutiques like Lazard will have to....train up more people themselves?
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