Walking Away From Wall Street

This is the true story of a young Wall Street professional who decided to give up his job at a top U.S investment bank and travel the world.

Here's his story:

There's something about deciding to quit a job that you know will be filled the instant after you resign that makes you question your sanity.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there waiting for an opening on a trading desk at a top-tier investment bank. Plenty of them are perfectly qualified. Why am I willing to give that up ?

Unfortunately, the view from my seat is fairly dim. The favorable dynamics that created the industry-wide 'war for talent' are long gone. Sure, if you're truly a rockstar and have the P&L to back it up, then you can still get paid like one.

But I think we all know that, at least on the sell-side, the days of working hard, grinding out consistent gains and then having that effort rewarded, are far in the rear view mirror now. So, if you're a young, single guy or girl who's confident in your ability to work hard and succeed, you have to ask yourself: 'Why are you still doing this ? Are you a lifer ? Is this a stepping stone to something better ? What is your endgame ?'.

For me, the decision was a fairly straightforward one. I've always known that New York will never truly be home for me. In the depths of the financial crisis, when finding a new job looked to be all but impossible, I was content to cling to my steady paycheck and wait for better days. And I'm certain I'm not alone in this.

After surviving in the trenches these last several years, I've decided those better days are here. The global economy is on better footing, job markets are improving, and I am simply no longer interested in collecting a much smaller paycheck to live and work somewhere that isn't a long-term home for me. If time and youth are our most precious possessions, and you aren't thrilled about the use you're getting out of them, then it's time to buy them back.

Although the decision to leave was straightforward, it wasn't easy, especially since I don't have another job lined up. Frankly, I don't really want one just yet.

Instead, I'm going to take several months off to go travel the world. They say the only chance you ever really have to travel is in between jobs, or when you're retired. To each their own, but I have no intention of waiting until I'm retired to see some more of the world!

On previous, shorter, backpacking trips that I've taken, I'm always struck by the number of young people from other countries that I meet on the road. So few are from the USA, as taking time to travel and see the world while we're young is simply not a big part of our culture. This saddens me. So I'm taking the leap of faith now, while the opportunity is right in front of me, and spending several months backpacking around the globe and sharing it all with friends and family and anyone else who cares to follow along.

I'm sure long-term travel will change me, and hopefully that change will be for the better. Of one thing I'm sure - it has been quite some time since I've truly grown, or changed for the better while sitting at my desk.

The reactions I get when I tell people of my plans are typically either 'you're insane', or 'I'm insanely jealous'. But tellingly, very few have tried to talk me out of it. Am I worried about finding a job at the end of my travels, after being out of the workforce for close to a year ? Of course I am. But the overwhelming majority of people I've spoken to are supportive of my goals and my rationale, and I have enough faith in myself to believe that I will manage to find a way to figure something out on the other side.

So why share this all with the world ? Mainly, because I think there are a number of people out there like me, who are unhappy with their situation, and are looking for something new, but are unable to break away without having that something else lined up.

Nobody who works in finance right now needs to be told that things are dismal and morale is low. I want to show those people that you can take control of your life, go travel and explore the world (and for less money than you might think), and come back afterwards without ruining the rest of your life. Forking over 100k+ for an MBA is not the only way out - you can simply decide to leave.

As it unfolds, I'll share with you the details of my resignation from my firm, and departure from Manhattan and the world of finance, my adventures around the world, and I will attempt to lay out a road map for others who are considering taking the plunge.

Follow along at Here Is The City and lifewaitsfornoone.com and see how it all unfolds.

image: © Vinoth Chandar

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