My stomach was churning as i sat in the back of the

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My stomach was churning as I sat in the back of the Yellow Cab taking me to the testing center, at One Penn Plaza in Midtown. The early-morning sun was too bright, beaming like a giant searchlight down each Manhattan block we crossed. I couldn’t help listening to a story on the taxi’s radio about Michael Jordan’s possible return to basketball, to play with the Washington Wizards. Why? I thought. He had retired from the Bulls at the top of his game. At the top of THE game. There’s nowhere to go but down. My path was just beginning. I’d gotten the magic call from Goldman Sachs about two weeks after my summer internship ended, in late August of 2000. I had gone home to South Africa to visit my family for two weeks before I started my senior year. Goldman Sachs generously paid for your ticket home, no matter where in the world that was: a nice perk of the internship. Because of the six-hour time difference between New York and Johannesburg, I was anxiously awaiting Goldman’s call at all hours of the night and day. But the frustrating part was I had no idea when the call was going to come. And if I didn’t hear from them, did that mean I wouldn’t be getting a job offer? Then, at around 5:00 P.M. Johannesburg time one Thursday evening, the phone rang—and the news was all good. “We are very excited to offer you a full-time job at Goldman Sachs,” the woman in HR said warmly. She apologized that Mike, the program manager who had found out about my Scores episode, was not able to jump on the call but said that he was very excited for me. He couldn’t have been nearly as excited as I was. This was the golden ticket, a dream job for anyone who wanted to start a career on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs was the best of the best—the “Rolls-Royce of investment banks,” as one of my Johannesburg friends had put it. I humbly played it down when he said that, but I knew it to be true. I felt incredibly proud that I had competed with some of the toughest, smartest people in the world, on one of the biggest stages in the world, and had succeeded. “Will you be accepting your analyst offer in New Markets Sales on the wire?” the HR woman inquired. In Wall Street terminology, “on the wire” means “immediately.” But I’m not an on-the-wire guy: I’ve always been cautious and deliberate. In school, if I finished a test twenty minutes early, I’d
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spend the extra time checking and rechecking my answers. And now I decided that I wanted to take the three to four weeks the firm had offered me to consider my decision fully, even though I was virtually certain I would ultimately accept. I later learned that this rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Wall Street likes instant gratification and gratitude. They want to know now , and they want a big thank-you. It was great to know so early what I’d be doing after graduation, at a point when many of my peers were still agonizing over where they were going to work. That was a big benefit of the Goldman internship. It gave you a taste of whether you actually liked Wall Street, and liked the firm. It gave you
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