Expectations vs. Reality - Working on Wall Street

October 4, 2016

Having grown up in a family that was heavily involved in finance, I was always well acquainted with market conditions and what was happening in the economy on a global, macro economic scale. It was during my junior year of high school when I took my first economics class and got a taste of the complexities and intricacies of the world that is Wall Street. Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to work in the financial industry, and eventually found myself working in the internal audit department at one of the world's largest global banking and financial services company. This week will officially be my third month since starting on the desk and although I am still in the very, very, early stages of my career, I realized that life on wall street is quite different from everything I expected it to be. 

 

 

1. The Culture - Expectation: I think it is fair to say that Wall Street doesn't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to employee satisfaction, or general happiness in any case. Seriously, there have been so many stories of junior bankers being so overworked that they literally died of exhaustion. Knowing all the rumors on the street and personal stories/experiences of friends, I didn't have high hopes of actually working in a positive environment, and frankly had very low expectations.

 

The Culture - Reality: I am so happy to say that I actually work in a department that fosters positivity and encourages fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. Apparently, from what I hear, it wasn't always like this in the past, but ever since the change in senior management, the firm has really made an effort to create a working environment that is both productive and enjoyable. I am also on the social committee with my fellow new analysts where we work with management to plan holiday and floor parties and team-building events to make work feel a little less like...work. 

 

2. Work/Life Balance - Expectations: Since I am not client-facing, I knew that my hours were not going to be as ridiculous as my peers who are working in investment banking. I expected to work an average of 10 hour days (8am - 6pm), meaning I would have time after work to meet up with my friends, work on this blog, or just unwind by watching television and eating ice cream. 

 

Work/Life Balance - Reality: I would say that my hours are pretty much on par with what I anticipated. In the first few weeks, I worked more of a 9-5, but that is definitely not the case anymore since summer has ended and I've been assigned to more audits. One of the things that really took me by surprise is the amount of early morning meetings I have. Since I work for an international bank, a significant number of our audits are done globally, so I work alongside peers in Europe and Asia. Because we have to take time zones into consideration, the majority of my meetings are at 8am, with an occasional 7am thrown in the mix. My days often start pretty early, but it isn't too much of a struggle for me since I thankfully live in Manhattan. 

 

3. The Co-workers - Expectation: Again, my low expectations stemmed from the general stigma that surrounded banks and the financial services industry as a whole. I am an avid movie goer, so films like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Wolf of Wall Street where the characters are portrayed as aggressive, back stabbing, money hungry employees really did not help my expectations either. 

 

 

The Co-workers - Reality: I really enjoy the people I work with, from my fellow analysts to the members of my team to the general audit department overall. Everyone I've met are super approachable and although quite busy, are always open and willing to help whenever I have questions. Since I work in an open office environment (goodbye cubicle land), one of my favorite parts of the day is dropping by a co-worker's desk and chit-chatting for a few minutes before going back to work. I am definitely fortunate to be working with people I enjoy since I have had experiences in the past where my co-workers and I did not mesh as well and it definitely impacted how much I enjoyed my time in the office.

4. The Work (Audit) Itself - Expectations: Obviously, during my interviewing stage, I researched a lot about what internal audit actually entails. I knew that it was different from financial accounting audits and that I would be looking into processes and risks rather than attesting to the accuracy of the bank's financial statements. However, it was quite difficult to grasp a detailed understanding of the daily tasks of an internal auditor, and I somehow imagined myself sitting at a cubicle and crunching numbers...(I have no idea why I thought that is what I was going to be doing, since I pretty much do exactly the opposite.) 

 

The Work (Audit) Itself - Reality: As stated before, a big chunk of my mornings are spent having meetings with stakeholders to discuss their current open audit issues and performing walkthroughs to learn about their processes and determining where the key risks and controls lie. There are different stages to an audit, and depending on which stage of the audit I am in, I will be involved in doing different tasks. For example, last week I was assigned to close an audit issue, so I spent 90% of my day going over the submitted evidence and determining if it properly mitigated and addressed the open risks. To avoid getting too much into the nitty gritty details of my job, lets just say that it is definitely something different then what I expected. 

 

 

​Learning Opportunities

 

I never really considered how much I would learn on the job before I started working. I guess I assumed I would learn a little each day, and over time, would hopefully learn enough to call myself a successful auditor. Learning Opportunities: I can honestly say that I did not expect to ever learn as much or as fast as I have been over these past 3 months. One of the best things about audit and the biggest reason why I chose this career path after college is that I am learning not only how to audit, but also about the detailed processes of the business lines that I am auditing.

 

Sometimes, there's only so much you can mentally prepare yourself for when you start a new job. A lot of the expectations you have may not match the reality of your situation, and that's totally ok! It's always going to a learning process, both about the business and about yourself, and you will be thankful for all the experiences you have. The best advice I can give you is to be open to absorbing new information and to ask a ton of questions despite how intimidating it might be. A career takes hard work to build, so take every day as an opportunity and kill it!

 

Thank you always for reading Penny and Dash and I hope you found this post informative and helpful :) Jess will take the reigns and talk about her experience in the consulting world at a later date, so she's excited to share that with you guys soon!

 

Of course, we had to take Corporate Classics to Wall Street, so check out our newest business casual lookbook below!

 

 

Outfit Details
Jess: Dress - Banana Republic (
similar) (similar), Scarf - Zara
Mel: Dress -
Banana Republic , Blazer - Zara (blue version), Bag - Zac Posen (color block version) , Shoes - Nine West

 

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