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Viva Vijay!

"When the guy handing out the Metro was happier than I was, I knew there was something seriously wrong."

When my friend Vijay started his job at one of the top investment banks this summer, I was supportive because he was one of the three undergraduates I'd ever met for whom the finance world seemed to be a good place. The guy eats, sleeps, and breathes finance. During college, he'd regularly spend two hours studying the markets before he trekked to the day's first class meeting.

But he called me last night to tell me that after 4 weeks of training and 3 1/2 weeks on the job, he quit. That's right, he just quit.

I know what you're thinking.

"Nobody does that."

Yeah, that's what his peers said when they heard the news. They were blown away as much as I was. And suddenly, they saw him as their hero as much as I did.

You see, merely two hours after he sent the obligatory "I'm leaving to pursue other opportunities" e-mail to his group, he was out for dinner and drinks with his project team: a VP, an Associate, and two other analysts. And all he heard was their awestruck voices saying...

"Nobody does this."

"Wow. You have balls."

"Good for you."

"I totally understand."

At some point, Vijay politely interjected, attempting to qualify his decision and make clear that it was a decision about himself and not about the people with whom he worked. Something to the effect of...

"Investment banking -- it's just not me. But if that's what you want to do, what you like to do, then great."

He called out a colleague who, on the surface, seemed to be in love with the work and the firm on which he was building his career. "Chris, I mean, you like it, right? You should be doing it then. Totally. Go for it, man."

But in that moment everyone was intoxicated by the honesty and truth and greatness of Vijay's uncommonly bold move. They had escaped from their professional sticks-up-their-butts inhibitions which guide too many decisions of what to do and what to say. And Chris said,...

"Actually, I don't know if I like it. I don't know how much longer I can take it."

Only time will tell whether Chris will be true to what he really wants and believes, whatever that might be. But Vijay, well, he's gone.

"It's just like you say, Ian. Life is too short to do stuff you don't like. Especially if you're lucky enough to have other options."

Wow. That from a guy with long-term political aspirations, who started in I-Banking, thinking that it would be worth it if he made enough money to set the stage for later being able to buy a way into politics. And after just 7 weeks, he says, "I just can't do this every day. Doesn't matter how much they pay."

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No rest for the wicked: On Monday, Vijay starts at a former professor's real estate development firm, a private company that owns some of the most notable buildings in the world. He'll get similar wages, more work that turns him on, and a better chance to be as happy as the Metro guy.

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 27 August 2005

Comments

Anybody thinking "nobody does that" hasn't been around enough people to use words like "nobody" with a straight face.

Truth is, lots of people do that. Moreover, if you're _going_ to get out of a field, it's a lot easier to do it at the _beginning_ of your career, when you don't have as much mental effort invested in building it into your self-image.

Posted by: Matt at August 30, 2005 06:38 AM

Matt, I think we should qualify that _to Vijay_ this wasn't quite the beginning of his career. Sure, he had only 7 1/2 weeks in that job - but the kid had been eat-sleep-and-breathing finance for several years. Sounds like it very much was a part of his self-image at that point.

That said, I agree that the less time one has invested into a career, the easier (or at least, less difficult) it will seem to change. Ian, post it here if you come across any anecdotes of older folks making such a radical change!

Posted by: Greg at September 12, 2005 03:20 PM