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Why I stopped pursuing a career in banking for working in startups

Daniel Hangan
6 min readOct 28, 2019

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein

Upon starting my studies I was deeply concerned with my future.

Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years?

This question pressured me into thinking whether I am making the right choice for my future.

Will I be successful in 5–10 years? Will I be happy? Will I have everything what I want in life?

Influenced my motivational speakers of the hard work they have put in their 20’s and the grind life.

Biased by my friends, family and surrounding of the value of money in our life. As they said “it’s better to be unhappy in a Porsche than unhappy in a bus”.

I chose to follow the typical banking career.

Paradox of choice

Our actions are unconsciously controlled by everyday life events, people we talk to, friends we choose and family we trust and love.

Even though people always agree that money can’t buy happiness, they somehow end up chasing money more than happiness.

A life paradox of choice is that we tend to spend very much time on less important decisions, and less time on difficult decisions.

We spend 10 hours looking for the best plane tickets for a 2 hour flight and think 5 minutes on what is the easiest way to get rich.


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How did we get here?

First year of my University I spent researching all career paths and all of them were weighted on a balance of how much money can be earned at each job. This is how I discovered finance, investments, trading and banking.

I am good at math. I always loved solving mental puzzles, crunching numbers, logical thinking and competition. I was confident Investment banking is for me. Plus, they pay good money.

An interesting pattern I’ve noticed is that competition attracts competition. Meaning that if you were competitive in classes during high-school and University, you would be much more inclined to choose a competitive career as well.

Investment banking is probably one of the most competitive careers today on the market. Many see the advantages of making good money, talking to CEO’s, valuing companies, but not many people see the disadvantages of working in a Investment Banking corporation.

Having money is cool but would you put your health and time at stake for it?

Banking doesn’t even pay that much in the beginning. Money makers are in high positions such as Director or Managing Director. To get there you have to work 8+ year in the company for an average compensation.

Be prepared to work long hours. I’m not talking about everyday, but I’ve seen interns and analyst working 100 hours weeks. This concerned me very much as I value my sleep and my health.

So before you commit make sure this is worth it for you.

If you care about psychological safety at work then banking is definitely not for you.

It’s a straight forward culture. You can get used to it, but it will take time.

There is always somebody behind you waiting for you to make a mistake.

As there are hundreds of applicants for every single position in Investment banking. This is why the competition gets to ridiculous levels.

There is always somebody looking to forward for you to be fired and replace you.

And this is frustrating.

The culture effect

I never thought culture matters that much. However understanding the company’s corporate culture better than others is a key advantage to have in the long term.

But know this.

“You will automatically become the culture of your organization”

Eventually after 6 months you will start eating what they eat, thinking what they think and valuing what they value. We all know the saying of Jim Rohn “You are the average of 5 people you spend the most time with.” If you will be spending a lot of time at work, be comfortable cultivating some of their behaviors.


Photo by Oscar Nilsson on Unsplash

I decided to try something different before I settle on my career path. And what can be more different to working in a large corporate than work in a small startup?

I quickly understood that this was one of the best decision I’ve ever made.

This is why I now I enjoy every day waking up and going to work.

Have whatever schedule you like as long as you deliver

Rules say that we need to come in at 10 and leave around 6. However, I’ve never encountered a problem with coming a bit later and staying a bit later to compensate. People are very flexible as long as you treat your work with respect and accountability.

You feel like working from home today? No problem, will see you on skype.

Feel bad? — Stay home for a day. We need you in full force and full functioning.

People are flexible and they care about you and your well being. In response you just have to deliver good work and have good attitude.

The best thing about startups is people.

One very very important lesson I learned in my 2 years of work experience is that the perfect job in not as important as the perfect company. What makes a perfect company? People.

So this is where I started thinking. If I am going to spend 8–10 hours per day in a surrounding with people. They got to be some people that I like, motivate me and I have a lot to learn from.

Coming to this statement again.

“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with” Jim Rohn

You are going to spend a lot of time at work at talking to your colleagues. So be okay with the fact that you will unconsciously pick up on some of their traits, behaviors and ideologies.

Why I like Startup people? Because they are

  • Flexible
  • Fun
  • Actually enjoy their life
  • Understand you better
  • Down to the earth
  • Dreaming to accepting the reality
  • Sharing success
  • Friday beers
  • They make me laugh

Don’t take your work personally because a call can change everything.

Corporations are dynamic too but not as much as startups.

Flexibility is probably one of the most important traits you need to acquire in a startup. Don’t expect to have clear defined tasks and goals. Here is the place to experiment, share crazy ideas and take big risks.

Nobody knows what to expect tomorrow.

As a sensitive person, it was difficult for me to adapt to this mentality in the beginning. I was working hard on my projects for weeks or months and then dropping them off because something more important arose out of a call.

Going to work with no expectation is my daily mindset right now. I am more exited when I wake up and more dynamic in terms of my work flow.

You are the entrepreneur and they want you to think like one.

I had a lot of anxiety at my corporate job because I was always thinking and analyzing business ideas at work. I couldn’t speak out, couldn’t let it go. In the meetings I was constantly catching my mind thinking about business ideas and startups.

In startups is completely different. They want to hear all your ideas — good or bad, doesn’t matter. Speak out, let them know how you see the future of the company from your perspective, what would you do differently as a CEO, etc.

Startups hate hearing “YES” all the time. They want you to challenge them, tell them why they are wrong and work on a solution together.

Try it and see for yourself

I would encourage everybody that feels stuck in their corporate job to try the startup life for 3–6 months to see a completely different world. What if this will make you a better version of yourself?

Don’t tell your parents — they want you to be safe and secure. Startups are risks so they will try to convince you back.

Good Luck!