Goldman Sacked Me

Goldman Sacks

Here's something sent in by one of our readers.

'I read with interest your article 'Goldman Sacks', and I thought I'd write in with my observations about the firm's 'annual firmwide review of its bottom quartile', and the 5% cull of the non-partner workforce you mention that results.

This annual process is often misrepresented in the press as Goldman simply cutting back on staff to save on costs, but there is nothing, in fact, further from the truth. Weeding out the relative poor performers, which Goldman does perhaps more aggressively than most of its rivals who undertake similar yearly processes, is simply the equivalent of a gardener pruning a tree or scrub to enable fresh shoots to grow. And I should know, as I was one of those that got 'pruned' a few years back.

Working at the most prestigious firm on the Street, with some very clever people, was both challenging and exhilarating and, although at the time I thought that the world had ended when I was told I was leaving, the three years I spent at Goldman were among the best I've had in the industry to date.

I'll admit that as review time came around each year, I became nervous. Most of us who ended us leaving in this way have a fair idea that our heads might be on the block. It's nothing overt, and there's certainly no pressure. It's just that you look round the firm to benchmark yourself with others who joined with you, or who are roughly the same age, and see how you are shaping up. In my case, as the years went by I could see that I had fallen behind, albeit marginally at first. 

In the end, being told to leave still came as a bit of a shock, but if anything it was as if a great pressure had lifted, and I was free to get on with my life. Sometimes, both in our personal lives and in our careers, making a change is the best thing for us, but it can often be difficult to make that change, and it's usually a blessing in disguise when it's forced upon you. Even so, I went through the usual emotions - denial, hurt, anger, fear, etc.

In my case though, (and I don't think that I'm atypical), things worked out for the best. With a few years of 'Goldman Sachs' on my CV, I had no difficulty getting another job with a good firm. And since I joined my new employer, I've always been regarded admiringly as the 'former Goldman guy', rather than someone who was once a victim of the firm's annual performance review process. I've risen up the ranks now - much higher than I would ever have done at Goldman - and now earned more money than would have been the case if Goldman had overlooked my shortcomings there and allowed me to stay.

In the final analysis, it really is a case of 'each to his own' - there's usually a place for everyone in our industry; it's just about getting the right fit for you as an individual. There's no shame in not making the cut at Goldman (although I admit I don't go around shouting the reasons why I left the firm from the rooftops), and equally it's not a case of 'Goldman's loss' that I've been more successful elsewhere. Goldman made the right call when the firm asked me to leave. The decision was right for the organisation, and ultimately right for me too (although it did take a little time for this to sink in).

So my message for anyone leaving Goldman as a result of the annual cull (or any other firm because of a similar exercise) is to regard it as an opportunity to reflect on what's right for you as an individual. Look ahead positively, and re-evaluate your next move - either within the industry or outside of it  and remember, it rarely ends up being as bad as it might seem likely to be at the time'.

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