The trading floor seems like an intimidating place, how do you work with such little privacy and so much noise? 

One of my biggest fears about leaving my job was that I may someday have to work in a cubicle or office and not have anyone to talk to all day.  The trading floor is not for everyone, but even if you have that awful pit in your stomach the first time you walk onto one, try to think past the first few days.  I’m sure the cafeteria in middle school was awfully scary before you knew anyone.  Or the library in college.  The good thing about joining a large firm such as an investment bank or asset manager, many new hires come in through formal analyst programs.  This means you will likely start with 50-75 immediate allies.  The interns over the years taught us there was a map online in the directory; when you looked someone up, it was possible to actually see on a map where his or her desk was.  Genius!  Thus eliminating the awkward walk up and down long rows looking for someone’s nametag (written in size 12 font and usually missing from the file cabinet drawer anyway; if not missing, on the wrong one).  Many desks also draw seating charts for interns.  Figure out a few key things – where’s the bathroom, where is the elevator, and look for landmarks.  After a few days it will stop all looking the same. 

As for the privacy, you will just have to get used to that.  Sales & trading desks have shared phone lines, so you can listen to anyone talk to his wife about soccer practice carpools and where they are having dinner Friday night.  That being said, just because you can listen, doesn’t mean you should.  You should listen to any non-personal phone calls; it is a great way to learn.  You will quickly realize nobody cares if you are calling your mom to say happy birthday or booking your annual check-up (however for certain female appointments I did make sure to book those from my cell phone outside the office) and most of the time your neighbors are heavily engrossed in whatever they are reading, typing, or talking about themselves.  Multi-tasking is key, and being able to type while talk and sometimes even talk on two calls at once (mute button comes in handy here). 

At the end of the day, the added noise (depending on the pace and activity level of the day) can be exhausting.  I recall so many nights coming home and being short with my parents on the phone because I just didn’t have the energy to talk to them.  My friends knew Friday nights were off limits, I typically needed to sit on my couch and not interact with humans until Saturday morning.  But on the slow days when you can hear the guy three rows over discussing his Tinder date from the night before, you may actually crave a little bit of background noise.    

FAQsMegan Philbin