"Do you know why no one likes you City-types?", a casual acquaintance asked me the other day. I told her I didn't, half insulted that I'd been labelled a "City-type" (but frankly, half flattered too) and inwardly struggling to digest the shock revelation that no one likes me. I'd always thought I was a pretty cool guy... "It's because all you care about is your big bonuses, and look where that's got us."
It resisted taking the bait. There is nothing to be achieved by mounting an impassioned defence against allegations like these. Anyone who has had any experience of the City, either directly or indirectly, knows that so-called City-types are not all as bad as they are often made out to be.
First of all, lots of people I know who have ended up in the City have a background in community service and charity work which hardly makes them qualified to be bad guys. Second, the vast, vast majority of financial services professionals had no knowledge of the practices that have resulted in the meltdown we're currently witnessing and, what's more, they still don't have the foggiest idea what's going on either. Third, we are as appalled by the notion of big mistakes being rewarded by big bonuses and bailouts as anyone else.
So why didn't I defend the City? The reason is, let's face it, we all also know that the sentiment underlying my friend's comments is not totally wide of the mark: lots of us spend too long in tall glass buildings, or dreaming about them, and can as a result lose touch with what's really important. Many of us are guilty of all too often confusing what we care about with what actually matters.
What to do? Well, if you're finding yourself losing sleep over the credit crunch, falling stock prices, or fears of economic recession, stop. You need a healthy dose of perspective. Pick up a newspaper, and you'll find it in the articles next to the doom and gloom financial stories.
For example, next time you're stressing about the likelihood of getting that internship/job, spare a thought for people your age around the world - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Afghanistan, or Iraq - who are worried about the likelihood of just surviving to see another day.
Next time you're on Excel modelling the personal impact of industry-wide reduced bonuses, bear in mind people who are just like you except they earn the minimum wage and have a family to support.
For those of you already in the industry, don't beat yourself up over that careless error you made at work. Remember, we're not saving lives (in fact, in times like these the opposite may seem closer to the truth).
Obviously, all this is not to say your chances of landing / keeping that job doesn't matter. The point is, it doesn't matter as much as you might think it does. So even though the current economic climate may have made it harder to get a job interview, or means your job is on the line, if you want to avoid going insane with stress, then regain your sense of perspective. You're still young and believe me, life will continue even if you're not earning £100k in your first year out of university.
My hunch is that if some people remember not to forget this, others will like "you City-types" a little bit more.
My colleague, Matthew Reeves, recently picked up on the staggering number of self-proclaimed expert talking-heads that have popped up on our TV sets of late. I'd like to echo that by calling to your attention the number of dodgy finance websites that seem to be springing up all over the internet.
They are easy enough to spot. Here are the tell-tale signs: no by-lines (but not in a chic way like The Economist), no sources, they are replete with rumours, irregularly, if ever, updated, and they are spreading everywhere.
Given this worrying trend, you'll be glad to know that thegatewayonline.com has just got even better. With more articles, more resources and a fresh new look, you now have even more ways to stay ahead of the game. Why don't you check it out today and let us know what you think.