A friend of mine in Hong Kong just quit her first ever job after more than a year of hardship. A talented person, she was at a loss to understand why she could not do well at one of the world’s most reputed banks. Having gone through the pain myself all those years ago, I decided to dwell on her situation. I zeroed it down to five dos and don’ts that my friend and I should have kept in mind to get the best out of our first jobs.
1) Get the right job
This is the best graduation gift you could ask for. Not everyone is made to be a banker, trader, research analyst or a sales person. You may stumble upon many lucrative banking positions, but it’s important to know whether you are the right fit for the role and vice versa. Consider interviews as an opportunity to find that out. No matter the money involved, no matter the peer pressure, you must go for what you enjoy doing. Stress rarely visits a peaceful mind and that translates into better performance at work.
2) Have the right attitude
A first job is challenging primarily because of a mismatch of expectations. Working in banking does not always mean you are a banker or trader. Likewise, being in insurance does not always mean you are an actuary. Even at your dream job, you may find yourself doing many mundane things that you did not expect to do. Having the right attitude is the key to success at this stage. Know that how you perform today, playing with that spreadsheet or making cold calls, will determine what you will get tomorrow.
3) Always be there
Reliability is one of the most sought-after strengths in the financial industry. Lack of trust equals lack of delegation of important tasks. By letting your boss and your teammates know that you will always be there when they need someone the most, you will sow the seeds of trust. I remember a friend once burning the midnight oil for a distant colleague of his. He not only registered himself in the good books of a leading person in the bank, but was also given highly confidential and critical tasks to perform by his boss.
4) Don’t be intimidated
Many will tell you that the number-one rule is that the boss is always right. Wrong. Yet it is easy to get bogged down by experienced managers and colleagues. This is especially true in the financial services industry where the client is king and everyone else, especially a new hire, takes the backseat. Do not be intimidated by their grey hair; have the courage to challenge the status quo for better. A word of caution: don’t overdo it. Timing is critical.
5) Don’t take yourself too seriously
Given the current pressure on Wall Street and the markets in general, even as a fresh graduate you may not be left untouched by the stressful environment in banks. The best you can do is to not take yourself too seriously. Remember work is only a part of life and not life itself. Give yourself some time off and enjoy other things in life.
Students form one of the most energetic groups in society. Armed with freshly acquired knowledge and under the right guidance, they are capable of changing the world for better. I hope the tips above will help the readers launch their career in the right direction.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal to the author, who is a Hong Kong-based finance professional. They do not represent those of eFinancialCareers or any other entity.
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