100 Hour Weeks, Seven Days a Week: My Experience Jumping Into Asset Management With A Liberal Arts Background

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I still remember my first time on a tennis court and thinking right then and there at seven years old—I never want to stop, I LOVE tennis. I cried when my mom dragged me off the court and told me it was time for the coach’s next lesson. From that moment on, I played the sport five times a week minimum until I was 22 and graduating from college. It was an abrupt stop. Full stop.  

“Real life” was beginning and I had no choice but to replace my life-long, five-time a week passion for a new life-long, five-time a week passion (or, obligation) called a job. But this time it wasn’t really a choice. There wasn’t really a trial period. Instead of 2-3 hours a day, it was 10-14. With this new endeavor taking up the majority of the day, it also changed the time I had to spend on other passions that used to balance me out.

The transition from college life—student-athlete-life—to real life—working life—turned my life upside down. In college my identity was wrapped up in the sport I played, my team, my record, my ranking. In the real world, the first question people ask is ‘what you do for a living’ and suddenly, my new identity became wrapped up in my job. I’d been an athlete forever and now no one’s asking about that (except other former student athletes—with whom a sort of instant connection is fostered). 

So, although it really seemed at first like my world turned entirely on its head, I quickly came to realize that I was actually ready for this change because of my experience as a student athlete. I already knew what it was like to commit to something, having played every day for over a decade. I already knew how to have a routine and plan my schedule accordingly, having had to balance practice, lifts, and other team events with my class schedule and a part-time job. I already knew how to cooperate with others and understand when to step up and when to back down, having had to deal with being a captain and a teammate. I already knew how to ask for help when I needed it and how to take instruction when it was given to me, having had to work regularly with my coach to improve various aspects of my game. All of these qualities will translate to whatever job any student athlete gets after college.

My first full time job out of college was as a ‘Business Development Analyst’ at an asset management firm. What does that mean? Put simply, it’s an entry-level position in the industry of finance that focuses on pitching investors’ ideas in order to fundraise. I had never done anything in the realm of finance before—I majored in Film & Media, minored in Graphic Design & Sociology, and had only interned at television networks, advertising firms, and event planning agencies. To say the least, I was a fish out of water at my first job. However, from the interview process I could tell the people I’d be working with would be very smart, there was plenty of opportunity to learn, and the chance to practice sales or “fundraising” would be beneficial for any career. So, I took it. 

It. Was. So. Hard. The material of this job felt impossible to grasp. On top of not having baseline knowledge about the industry of finance or real estate (the particular sector on which my firm focused), literally nothing came naturally. I had never been a numbers person, knew maybe one or two formulas in excel, and was barely understanding information from freshman-level textbooks used in college classrooms I had bought in hopes that they would help my case. Needless to say, in a matter of weeks I knew for a fact that this type of work, industry, and company was not for me. 

I remember feeling this way before, but on a micro-scale in the classroom. Tufts, a liberal arts school, demanded students take at least two math courses. I took Symmetry for one (a class geared towards humanities students, that is to say, not as rigorous as others) and a more ‘legitimate’ Stats class for the other. The stats class was EXTREMELY difficult for me. I felt the professor was teaching a different language for the entirety of all the classes I went to. However, I cared about my grades way too much, so I would go to office hours, hire peer tutors, and re-read my notes until I understood the material to ensure I could perform well on the exams and get a good grade in the course. For the most part, any time this happened with one of my classes throughout college, I would work extra hard and see the result. So, I thought I’d take the same approach to my first job.

I was used to being a top performer – hard work pays off and if you stay at something long enough you’ll become the best if you really want. But there’s a few major differences that made this situation a little bit different than ones I had been in before: 

  1. I didn’t have a teacher or someone who could help me understand the materials

  2. this was the only thing I was focusing on— I had no outlet or escape. It was all-consuming.

  3. None of my coworkers were in the same boat as me.

They had all majored in this kind of subject in school and even had years of prior work experience at similar companies. It wasn’t like in college, where everyone was in the same boat and could help and support one another. 

I did the absolute best I could for the first few months. 100-hour weeks. Seven days a week. I bought every recommended book I could get my hands on. I spent every moment I had studying and researching, all so I could be the best at my job. All I wanted to do was be really, really good at what I was doing. I had the mindset I would treat it the same way I did tennis and school. But I soon came to realize I could not do that. Not only was I burnt out after six months, but more importantly— I was miserable. I didn’t like what I was doing, and honestly, I didn’t see a future for myself at the company. So, I had a revelation: why am I killing myself over something I don’t like or want for my future? And after that, for the first time in my life, I realized I didn’t have to be, nor did I want to be a perfectionist at this job. 

After sticking the job out for one year –which I thought a fair amount of time to give it a real chance–I quit. WHAT A RELIEF. I now have a new full-time job that I absolutely LOVE. Not only do I love it, but I’m good at it. It comes naturally and the two feed off each other. I’ve found the passion that brings out the best type of me—that came out on the court, but couldn’t come out at my last job. Since switching jobs and getting back to doing something 5x a week that I actually love, my life, my demeanor, and my quality of work has become exponentially better. 

I’ve been out of college a year and a half, and am grateful for both the jobs I’ve had. They both have provided perspective and forced me to do a lot of self-reflecting. My advice to student athletes finding and choosing a job after college, is to trust that you’re prepared for any entry-level position you choose, but put great weight on the passion you’ll have for it, the people who you work with and will mentor you, and the work environment it creates.