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My mid-career change into banking went horribly wrong: Don’t make the same mistakes

A change can be challenging

A change can be challenging

I’m a 30-something average Joe and like most, I work for the dough. I stayed on for a good eight years in my first job. The money wasn’t bad, but life became mundane and routine. I began wondering how I could achieve more in life because it felt that I was working without a purpose.

Opportunity came knocking soon and I plunged into it without much consideration. I joined the banking sector in 2010 without any industry expertise. Armed only with positivity and self-belief, I gave myself a year to prove my worth.

I thought my years of work experience would give me an edge over my peers and I was ready to take on the challenge. Or was I? Gradually, I realised how idealistic I had been.

I was not prepared for the different skills and long hours in banking; it became increasingly difficult to keep up with my younger, more qualified colleagues. After one year, as anyone can guess, I decided to call it quits. I was unable to cope with the rigours of the job or meet the bank’s expectations. There was a gap between reality and the ideal career I had in mind.

After that episode, I sat down and reflected. I evaluated the following: What are my strengths? What do I want to do? What is my passion?

Passion is the driving force of why you want to do well in your field of work. It compels you to go to work feeling energetic, optimistic and filled with anticipation. Given my past experience, I have gathered some key points that may help reduce the culture shock involved in a mid-career change – or at least minimise the damage to your bank account.

Here’s the real deal

Assuming that you are an experienced professional and would like to embark on a career change, ask yourself some of these questions, in no order of preference.

1. Do you have enough savings to tide you over for a period of salary decline?
2. Do you foresee yourself working in the same line for the next five years (at least)?
3. Do you have support from your loved ones?
4. Do your personal values align with the organisation’s values?
5. Do you know how you are able to contribute to the company?
6. Do you know what you really want in your job?
7. Do you know where your passion lies?
8. Do you possess the necessary functional or soft skills to succeed?

And if you do move into banking from another sector, be prepared to:

1. Take a pay cut or a junior role, especially if you don’t possess the necessary skills or experience.
2. Work under someone who is younger than you.
3. Undertake a lifestyle change.
4. Get ready for a steep learning curve which means devoting additional hours and effort to make up for lost time.
5. Keep up to date on industry trends.
6. Maintain a positive mindset.

What pushes people to have a mid-life career change? Money, job satisfaction, better career progression, a change in goals, eureka moments and so forth. I am sure we have our own reasons, but have you really given enough thought to it? Reality may be much more brutal than you think.

Jeffrey Teow is a product head for an organisational development firm in Singapore. The views expressed are his own and not those of eFinancialCareers.

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Comments (7)

  1. mid or back ppl in hedge fund always have that in mind, no progression but hard to move

    BenjaminGraham Reply
  2. way da go jeff! commendable effort there to plunge into this industry. I guess in a way this industry is harder as every single day, no mater front, back or middle office. A lamentable sign of our times perhaps. i think you would make this article more appealing with a follow up on how banking candidates would possess what qualities to work in the non banking sector?

  3. I feel so lost as I just quitted my job. Now learning how to trade but I find it really tough to be an intra-day trader. Sigh. Maybe this is not realistic at all.

    I hv a honors degree in computer eng and 2 diplomas. It s so hard to find a job just because I m in my mid 30s and my past experience is in service and hospitality. Totally nothing to do with what I have studied.

    Can anyone advise me on what I should do?

  4. lars: are you referring to functional or soft skills? After all, every industry will/may require different skill sets. e.g. IT back room role, may not need to possess excellent communication skills!

    Bunny: I understand how you feel. Intra-day trader? Are you referring to the future trading? In any case, what do you really want to do? Money Vs Passion can be hard to decide

  5. hey jeffrey, i’m a singaporean too, and it’s very brave of u to write abt ur bad experience on career switch. other sites usually state success stories.

    anyway, i also had a career change recently, but the new career was so bad it took a toll on my mental health (my brain cells were not put to use at all) and i had to leave it. switching to this career was done almost on impulse though. i also thought i could leverage on my experience from the previous career, but sadly, i was almost starting from ground zero with other fresh grads.

    i was pretty impressed with your definition of passion. a recent job interview challenged me to assess whether i saw my previous career with passion, or merely as a job. u defined it in another way. that’s very cool. the rest of ur blog post was very refreshing too :)

    i still have no idea what i should do for my next career, except i know i am very much bilingual (thanks to having to do translation for my chinese-educated parents who knew only simple chinese), came from IT background, and am an ENTP. I’m meeting a career counselor tomorrow to see how things can work out for myself. my savings can last me till the end of the year but i definitely don’t want to only start work by then. it’s very painful to see my hard-earned rainy day funds getting lesser by the day.

  6. Hi unemployed. hang in there! Keep fighting and remain positive! :)

  7. Hi Jeffrey, I understand what you mean. I’m in banking sales and intend to quit. But I’m afraid I can’t find a job out there so am sucking up the long hours and no life.

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