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Six tips for making the most of a job you want to quit, but can’t

Tortoise upside down

You want to quit your job, but can’t. Investment banks across the City have hiring freezes on, the job market is foundering and the axe is still hanging over many. This doesn’t mean you have to tread water in your career. Making the most of what you have and seeking opportunities within your current employer is a way to ensure that a lack of motivation doesn’t set in.

When morale is low, dissatisfied employees become less productive. So, how can you stop the rot and make the best of the lot you have? Here are some tips from careers coaches and psychologists.

1. Take control of your own development

The good news is that investment banks are conscious of employee satisfaction, stress and potential burnout these days. Aside from the concessions to working hours being offered to juniors – which many suggest have still made little difference – there’s a renewed focus on training and development, according to Andrew Pullman, former head of HR at Dresdner Bank and managing director of consultancy People Risk Solutions.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive, but employees need to realize that training is not the organisation’s responsibility. You have to develop a clear strategy about where you want to take your career in the long-term,” he says. “Suggest ideas to your employer about how they can help you.”

2. Increase your internal network

One of the main reasons for an individual’s career coming to a shuddering halt is that their advocate within the organization has moved on, says another careers consultant.

“It’s simply not enough to rely on a single mentor or advocate within the firm any more because of the recent shakeout in the banking industry,” she says. “You need to build relationships across the organization, even if those synergies are not related to your business area. In the long-term this presents the opportunity to move laterally within the organization or potentially be invited to a new position outside of the firm if one of your key contacts moves on.”

3. Attempt to increase your profile

If you’re an office wallflower, it’s difficult to make yourself known in the workplace, but it’s important to boost your profile, even if it’s not directly related to your job, says Jeremy I’Anson, a careers coach who works in the financial sector.

“One example was a project manager in a bank who started running lunchtime workshops for employees in other parts of the business on project management,” he says. “This gave him great satisfaction, which improved his motivation, made him feel valued and also opened doors within the firm.”

4. Take advantage of the ‘wellness programmes’

Numerous studies have linked investment banking careers to a decline in physical and mental health. Banks have rolled out various ‘wellness’ programmes that offer everything from mindfulness to improve focus and productivity, resilience training to help employees handle stress better and numerous facilities to improve physical well-being. It’s tempting when lacking motivation to turn to caffeine, stimulants and perhaps harder drugs to try and improve energy in the workplace, but keeping fit and healthy, talking through issues that stress you out and taking on offers of mindfulness training are good ways to ensure productivity, according to psychologists who counsel City workers.

5. Shout about your achievements

European bankers are likely to err on the side of modesty when it comes to talking about their achievements, perhaps hoping their managers will recognize their hard work without prompting. As rare glimpses of the Goldman Sachs appraisal process revealed after the Abacus affair, this is an unwise tactic. Daniel Sparks, former head of Goldman’s mortgage business, wrote in his self-appraisal: “We didn’t just survive – we excelled.”

“You get nowhere by being modest and if your achievements aren’t recognized your career can falter and it’s also incredibly demotivating,” says I’Anson. “Learn how to promote yourself.”

This is getting harder, however. Goldman Sachs has recently moved its appraisal system away from a sliding scale 1-9 ranking and towards a softer approach with continual feedback from both employees and managers. Morgan Stanley has also scrapped its number rankings in favour of a ‘five adjective’ rating and 360 degree review.

6. Know your worth, and get it 

As we pointed to previously, those who stick in the same job for a long period of time can end up being underpaid – by up to 20% less than their peers who have switched every few years. Do your research, get some comparable figures from job advertisements, recruiters and salary surveys and talk to your employer.

“Sit down with your manager and talk about money if it’s become a demotivating factor,” says I’Anson. “You may not end up with what you were aiming for, but it’s likely your employer will make some concession if you’re genuinely underpaid.”

Photo: Getty Images

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