Careers advice from a human cyclone

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Last month, Terri Dial, executive director of retail banking at Lloyds TSB, spoke at an eFinancialCareers sponsored event at Cass Business School. Here's her advice...

On playing internal politics: Too much is made of it. Politics are just life. Worry more about the values that lie behind a company's political machinations.

On choosing between investment banking and corporate banking: Investment banking is where you have relationships in order to do transactions. Commercial banking is where you do transactions in order to create the relationship.

On what to do if you don't start out in your career of choice: Be flexible, go for the intermediate step (Dial started out as a teller in a retail branch of Wells Fargo after identifying the bank in Yellow Pages). Beware of companies that set out career paths for you - it's best to own your career yourself.

On motivating factors: Not one successful person is motivated primarily by money - it's just a scorecard for success. Think about what really energises you instead.

On how to choose where to work: Look at how your inner values match those of the company you're thinking of working for. If you're in a culture that's not right for you, you'll never be successful - you'll just be seen as different.

On ascertaining culture: You won't find out a company's culture by reading the corporate literature or looking on the website - culture is what people do when they're not told what to do.

On sticking with it: You'll need to be resilient. Every career has its bumps and twists - that's why they call it a path, not a motorway. Peers will say your company doesn't value you - sometimes they'll be right, other times they'll be wrong.

On working hard: Everyone, whether successful or not, says they work hard. The only conclusion is that some people measure hard work differently to others.

And...on the seven skills that you can develop to set you apart from the rest:

1. Communications: Not just verbal, also written. Email is making good communications more important than ever.

2. Critical and creative faculties: Being able to get it right on the back of an envelope.

3. Problem solving: The key faculty of a leader.

4. Decision making: Having the courage to make a decision - and to make it once.

5. Empathy: Knowing how others feel, even when they're not in the room.

6. Listening: Really hearing what others have to say.

7.Teamwork: Being a good team player and team builder.

Before joining Lloyds TSB in June 2005, Terri Dial was president and chief executive of Wells Fargo.