What motivates you?

I was asked this question 4 years ago when I was interviewing for a role in one of the top groups in IB globally at the time. The MD sitting across from me had asked all of the typical interview questions you’d find on a number of resources online (as well as here) and finally looked at me and asked, “what motivates you?”...

This wasn’t a question I had prepped for and was caught just alittle bit off guard. I thought for a second and said that I was a person that was committed and passionate about anything that I got involved in. That my passion motivated me. Not competition, not money and not anything else, my passion. I was going to give an example when she cut me off and said, “well, what if you aren’t passionate about something? What if you aren’t interested in what you’re working on, or your interests change?”

My immediate response was that I was passionate about the group I was interviewing with. That I had gone out of my way to understand everything about the sector because it really interested me, but then again she said “yes, so you are interested in this sector, but what if you are working on something that isn’t in this coverage space.”

I was starting to sense that I wasn't giving the answer she wanted to hear and I also didn't know what else to say because I was being honest. I said that once I commit to something I put my head down and just do it, even if I’m not interested in it. As I was about to give an example, she didn’t seem to have found that response to her liking and instead of listening, sat back and asked me if I had any questions for her - effectively wrapping things up.

I left that interview thinking that the question had been about accountability and reliability, and thought I had covered those topics as best that I could by trying to discuss commitment.

Now that I’m no longer in investment banking and have spent the past year starting my own sparkling wine cocktail brand, I suddenly understand what the question really was about. 

Passion is a fickle mistress

I get so many people who tell me how great it is that I’m doing something I love, now that I work for myself. How it must be so much easier to put in the 80-100 hr weeks now than it was as a banker...

They are wrong.

...having been both an investment banker and now an operator I found that motivation isn’t something that you can't leave up to passion or interest or something you love. In entrepreneurship, like in banking, there are days when I ask myself, why I am I working these 80 hr weeks? Sometimes, why subject myself to the unknowns of entrepreneurship instead of the job security, trajectory and paycheck of IB? There are days I hate what I’m doing and I completely lack any interest in my work. There are days when everything goes horribly wrong and there is no one senior to me to ask how to fix it. Does my passion keep me from being overwhelmed? I have to ask myself is the time commitment worth not doing as much socially? Does commitment to my goals solve the issue in these circumstances? Does the love for what I'm doing make things easier?


e.g. I actually loved being in investment banking, too. It was a career that was by all regards just what I wanted. However, when I was working at the desk, there was a period when I was having problems in my personal life, my health and I was distracted. I wasn’t motivated to be at work. I forced myself to go in because I had committed to it, but that passion had disappeared and I was focused on the other aspects of life and I honestly didn't give 100% for those last few weeks.

Over the past year, I was forced into the same motivational dilemma again, but this time I had to find another way to respond. I was dealing with health issues and laying in a hospital bed, a few weeks after leaving banking. I decided to start working towards getting my business off the ground at that inflection point. At first, I had the drive that this is my passion, it's going to get me through anything. However, as I spent the next 6 months laying in that hospital bed for about 20-22 hrs a day, and the next 6 after that trying to adjust to the new normals of my life and getting slowly readjusted to society from the almost complete isolation, I learned that my passion for my business wasn't going to help me get it off the ground. I had so many other extreme situations that were so much more pressing, from health to personal life, that why should this business be even any sort of priority? I had no commitment to force me to work on it? Add all of the other questions I listed above, you'll see how there was no reason for me to pursue a new business let alone anything... So I reflected and remembered the MD that asked the question, "what motivates you?," 4 years ago. She was right in seeing that commitment, passion, or even being surrounded by individuals who will make me want to be my best wouldn't hold up in the more extreme situations (this is especially important, when for most, banking already is an extreme situation and burnout is common).

What I learned is that motivation when left up to anything outside of yourself, is a fickle mistress. If you need passion, which many think is the ultimate happiness and driver, you still will be lost. Passion is still an external driver, as is money, or needing those around you to push you. You’re asking an interest and circumstance to unlock your drive and help you get through tough situations. Motivation needs to be an active choice, right here right now, that “I will give 100% everyday, irregardless of what the task and what the circumstances”. It’s a choice of who you are, and not a situational application based on interest or external circumstance. Once I started applying that lesson to my life and creating the habits around it. Even the wildly devastating and heart breaking life situation I was in, wasn't as overwhelming anymore. I was able to choose to give 100% to not only my business but to everything else around me as well. I started actively choosing to be here, right now instead of applying partial attention to all of the things that drew my attention and motivation.

This brings me back to if you're dependent on something to drive you, it will inevitably make you feel overwhelmed. If even for a second your motivator is lost or not to your expectations, you'll lose any and all ability to respond to the situation and to give to it anymore. That's burnout...beat it by creating your own motivation.

What motivates you?

If you are looking to go into investment banking or entrepreneurship or any career, ask yourself what motivates you. Go deeper than the superficial topics of, "this is what i'm interested in", or "the people around me and competition", or "long-term job security" (let's be honest this means money). Maybe if you peel back a second layer you'll realize what motivates you is the idea that hopefully everything you are doing today will make you happy, and allow you to be who you want to be one day in the future. It's your pursuit of happyness.

Once you find that it's all about getting to something in the future you'll realize that you can make that choice today. If you aren’t giving 100% in things that don’t interest you today, you won’t be able to give your all, when you do have everything, but are faced with a tough situation. No amount of your passion or hope for a future will help you, you'll have to make a choice to get up and give your all. This isn't to say that slave away and revolve your all, around the things that make you miserable, or that you shouldn't chase your dreams - it's to understand that if you rely on something to drive how much you give, you are dependent on that circumstance to determine your level of involvement. You're still shackled, but now its to interest and passion, and burnout will still happen, albeit in other unexpected ways; usually when you're overwhelmed and it gets toughest to juggle your career, personal life, etc. That's when your motivation gets tested and that image of the future gets murky (and it inevitably will be tested). If you don't need something to drive you, but you drive yourself, that's freedom. That's motivation of your own choosing. That will give you sustainability to run through walls and respond to situations, to beat out the burnout and being overwhelmed, and be the best you want to be, whether it's in banking, or whatever else it is that you're passionate about...

Your one line take-away:

Marry your motivation to your passions; don't make your passions, your motivation.

Anish Patel founded ValuationUniversity.com when he was an undergrad and wanted to build a better, more candid resource for his peers who were breaking into banking. This post is a step away from our general advice to give you a firsthand account on an important aspect of banking, and career development - motivation. If you enjoyed today's post remember to like, comment, share and subscribe!

We are also excited to announce that we are rolling out personal consultations for anyone looking to break into high finance and needs some mentorship. Fill out the form on our interview prep page to learn more. 

Thinking of PE when you've only been on the desk for 2 months...

Most first-year investment banking analysts are getting settled into their desk after their summer training, and they are already starting to feel the pressure to start planning their next move – usually to Private Equity. Let's talk about what the recruiting cycle looks like for Private Equity for a first-year investment banking analyst.

What questions should I ask my interviewer?

Why did you choose this group/bank when you were going through the recruitment process?

How much pitching vs execution work does this group do?

When on live deals what type of role does the group take, ex. do you only take book running roles, as leads or do you take passive and co-managing roles as well?

What is the mix of deal types (M&A vs Equity vs Debt)?

Do you do the modeling in house or is it farmed out to the product groups?

The above questions show the banker interveiwing you that you understand what it's like to be on the job and the burning desires of first year analysts. Many analysts complain about being at banks where all they do is pitch work and never get to work on deals, or that they don't get enough experience doing financial modeling. When looking for Private Equity jobs after banking two of the big things that PE shops are looking for is your deal experience and modeling expertise. 

How Do Bankers Put up with the Boring EXCEL Hours?

Question Originally answered on Quora:


“Excel” and “boring” should NEVER be used in the same sentence!

This means you have never had the high of banging out a model or building a very simple yet elegant formula to derive some complex piece of information from a massive data set. I feel sorry for you my friend.

In terms of day-to-day banking…Banking isn't boring. Having multiple competing deadlines and senior bankers breathing down your neck, while you stress over whether you'll be able to make it to dinner with your girlfriend (who you haven't seen in weeks), and knowing that you’ve got an ulcer bleeding out your intestines*, is anything, but “boring”.

Having an interest in what sector you are covering, camaraderie with your co-workers in the bullpen, making over 100k straight out of university and an idea of where you want to be in the next couple years, all make the 80+ hrs lifestyle manageable…especially considering bankers are driven, and hardworking by nature and also know exactly what they are getting into when they sign-up.

*ulcers are not a regular part of the job

If you have any burning questions you want answered please sign-up to recieve new posts and reply to any of our emails with your query.

The Perfect Networking Email for IB Interns

Its always difficult to know what to write when emailing someone for the first time. Its especially difficult when you are looking for a job.

After extensive trial and error the Valuation University team has compiled the perfect Networking Email for interns looking for work elsewhere

Subject Line

XYZ University Student interning at ABC Bank IBD

  • Start with what University you go to if you are emailing an alumni
  • Start with the bank if it is not alumni
  • In some circumstances include what group you are in if it makes sense

ex subject line. Emory student interning with Goldman IB, FIG Coverage

This would be a great subject line if you are emailing a fellow alumnus from Emory who is in IB and FIG coverage at another bank


Hello Banker X,

I am a rising senior at Emory and I am currently interning in the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs, in their Financial Institutions Group. I have been having a great summer and am enjoying my time in Investment Banking. 

However, I would like to learn more about banking at an M&A focused shop. Specifically, I would love to learn about Evercore and your accelerated recruiting process.

I’d love to get on the phone with you, or meet for coffee to talk a little about banking and get some advice, and I have also attached my resume for your reference. I know you are busy, so please feel free to get back to me at your convenience.


Your name here

Additional Notes

  • Attach your resume - this allows the person on the other end an immediate chance to see whether they would like to continue the discuss or not. Since, your are networking for accelerated recruiting, there is no reason to be coy about what you are looking for

  • Be specific about common traits - if you have any commonalities such as both having been student athletes, make sure to note them

Accelerated Recruiting - the Investment Banking Internship

Accelerated Recruiting is how investment banks hire full-time candidates very quickly after internships and without conducting formal on-campus recruitment. As the name suggest it is considered an "accelerated" process prior to the standard fall on-campus recruitment and is invite-only.

As investment banks strive to fill more and more seats from just their intern classes and remove the need for full-time recruitment, accelerated recruitment is becoming the only way to break into banking or lateral after the junior year internship. The days of on-campus interviews for full-time roles are disappearing at bulge brackets and elite boutiques.

How to Network internally - the Investment Banking Internship

Most interns come into their Investment Banking Internships with the advice to network and get to know others in the bank, and build their professional network. Many times interns may also get placed in groups that they aren't interested in.

Networking is important for both building your professional network and to find your place where you want to be.

The full-proof answer to "Why Investment Banking?"

Every single Investment Banking interview is going to ask the question - "Why Investment Banking?" and more specifically "Why this bank? / group?".

Let's be honest no one is ever going to say prestige, money, career aspirations, and you will never get the job if you say these things. Although they are definitely a huge part of the selling point of banking.

Most prospectives answer with some sort of bullshit along the following: