If you’ve been out of the market for a little while, either on gardening leave, voluntary abstention from work, or as a result of redundancy, you may be a little rusty when it comes to remembering how things work in an investment bank. Here are six things to get you back on track:
…the toilets, the canteen and the exit, probably in that order. Then work out where all the people you used to work with are sitting so you know which areas to avoid. In smaller firms, you may be able to achieve this by standing up and looking around you but the options for escape will be more limited.
…because of cost cutting and other efficiency measures, no one will have had a Blackberry handset upgrade. Therefore, those with the oldest Blackberries will know where all the bodies are buried. Anyone with a black and white screen will be a mine of information. Find them, befriend them and listen carefully. Conversely, those with a handset to match your own are likely to have joined in recent weeks. Potential allies or possibly just off the graduate training program? Make your choices carefully.
3) Re programme
You come pre-loaded with a series of assumptions about how the world works based on your most recent employer. Some of these will be valid, some will be partially correct and others have the ability to cause serious problems. Don’t assume that Middle Office automatically follow up trade breaks like they did in your last place…ask!
4) Act ‘stupid’
In your first few weeks, even months, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the ‘stupid’ questions that would make it look as if you hadn’t really been concentrating if you leave them too long.
Ask why things are done the way they are, by those people, at those times. Not only will you get a clear picture of how everything works but answers to the ‘why’ questions also show up where the power sits. Don’t, however, as someone I used to work for did, preface these questions with “I must be very stupid but…”. He thought he was being clever, everyone else thought he was stating a fact.
Constantly talk about how fabulous/dreadful your last place was, how amazing/appalling the systems were and how easy and politics free/complex and divisive the office was. It wasn’t and you know it. Equally, don’t remind everyone what a Master of the Universe you were or go on and on about how your clients love you. Actions speak louder than words (especially when they don’t if you see what I mean).
Listen to what’s being said around you and try and apply it to your own experiences. Avoid making snap judgements if at all possible, even if someone you already know is involved. Try and spend the first three months remaining neutral before wading in to whatever battles you have decided to fight or declaring your allegiance in ongoing in-office politics.
Enjoy your status as a newbie while you can; before you know it, you’ll be sucked in and it’ll be business as usual.
The author is a formerly out of work banker who has recently discovered a new job.