Should you stay in finance? Or should you try your hand as an entrepreneur, or employee of a mid-size technology firm, or work for a clothing company? Finance can be a great career. Over 18 years, it's treated me well, but it's not for everyone. If you don't watch out, your finance career may stall. You'll need to take action to reinvigorate it or call it a day. In my experience, here's how you'll know you've got a problem.
When it’s just about the money
When working in finance stops being about a love of the game, and you’re just there for the money, you should leave.
When you stop learning
If you’re working in finance and you've stopped learning, you’ve probably also stopped caring. You should think about why you’re in the game still. If you aren’t learning and you don't want to learn, you should just get out.
When you don’t have a mentor
Finance has always followed an apprenticeship model. If you find yourself without a mentor or rabbi (as we called it at my firm), then your career has probably failed.
When your boss stops liking you
Managing-up is one of the most important tasks in a bank. Yet so many people I know hate their bosses. You need to build rapport and trust, or your career is over.
When your juniors don’t want to help you
You aren’t going anywhere without some help from your analysts and associates (especially now that juniors get to rate your management of projects). Make sure you have them on your side. You need them to provide you with the leverage you need to succeed.
When you’re having lunch on your own
Relationships are key to success. One of my favorite books is “Never Eat Alone”. Breaking bread with others is a tremendously useful way to build relationships. Take every opportunity to do that.
When you think you’ve got it figured out
Finance is changing. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, then you’ve failed; you just don’t know it yet. Stay on your toes. Stay flexible. Stay humble.
When you’re fighting with compliance
Being on the right side of the regulator is key. Compliance is just trying to protect you and the firm. Make sure you stay in their good graces. If not, your career will be over soon.
When nobody asks for your opinion
Whether you’re a trader, a banker, a researcher or in sales, finance is about judgement. You are being paid for your judgment and opinion. If no one is asking for it, you need to be worried.
When you can’t wait to get out of there
If your job isn’t the most exciting thing for you, then you should find what is. Not all of us are built for finance. I know lots of people who left and are a lot happier. If your finance career fails, it's sometimes no bad thing.
The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learnt on Wall Street.