Your First Bonus – What to Expect

By Derek On September 8, 2011 Under Uncategorized


“If you don’t follow the stock market, you are missing some amazing drama.” Mark Cuban

As I have said in other posts, you should look at your first year in finance as a golden opportunity. It is an opportunity for you to learn not to earn. To be frank, in your first year you are basically a burden and wasting other people’s time. You are tolerated, and paid a pittance because of hope (“expectation” is too strong a word). It is “hoped” you will make a contribution to the team eventually.

If you are given a bonus at all consider yourself lucky. Your bonus will be tiny and more of a token bonus than anything else. Be thankful and say so. Don’t be shy. Your boss will pull you aside into a small, usually windowless room, and push a piece of paper across the table toward you. Typed on it will be a letter from HR thanking you for all your efforts this past year, whatever – we all get the same stupid letter. What is important are the numbers at the bottom.

Act Like a Man – Even if You Aren’t

Take a look at it carefully. More often than not, as a junior person with no real contribution, it will be more than you deserve. Don’t cry and beg for more; that is unseemly. Stand up, extend your arm across the table to your boss and shake his hand. Tell him, “Thanks very much for this. I really appreciate it.” And you’re done. You will have acquitted yourself admirably.

After your second year, your bonus should be more substantial. But remember, this is a “discretionary” system and as such there are no guarantees. If you work really hard and everyone knows you did really well but the firm has a terrible year – guess what? You will feel the pain too. All you can do is work hard and hope for the best because you are like a sailor at sea with no control over the weather.

Being at Sea

When work is stressful I often think about being at sea in bad weather. To be at sea during a gale is a frightening thing. You are truly on your own and nobody can ride to your rescue. There is a famous sailor who said, “I am glad there is a storm out there now because if I wasn’t glad there would still be a storm!” Yeah, that philosophy about sums up the bad bonus for a junior person too.

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