If you're a young person in an investment bank, you're a high achiever. You're probably also keen to make an impression and to advance up the banking hierarchy. I know: I've been there myself - I spent over eight years in banking, first at Goldman Sachs and then at Morgan Stanley. There's often something special about the people who make it finance; if you want to be one of them you'll need to cultivate the right approach.
1. Be passionate about your goals but be patient on your way to achieving them
It is important to stay focused on one’s long-term goals, but it is even more so to be 1) flexible with the approach and 2) patient with the timeline. Don’t obsess with a very detailed multi-year plan. A few months down the line you will have new information that will make any such plans obsolete. Instead, shift your focus to completing your immediate tasks well, to taking one more micro step towards growing as a professional. If all you can think of as an analyst is to become an associate, you will become frustrated very quickly.
2. Come in with a giving attitude and an abundance mindset
You can add much value doing tiny things. When I joined Goldman Sachs, one of my daily responsibilities was food delivery for my team. On a hectic day, I was the difference between my team eating or not through the day. Over time, that helped me bond with the pack, and it made everyone want to invest time in my growth. Demonstrate your work ethic and your drive even before learning how to open excel.
3. Learn how to interact with your team effectively
Everyone is different. Some people don’t want the details. Some others can be micro-managers. Some others are susceptible to internal politics. Some are very defensive of their clients. It is not personal.
Your team won’t adapt to you. It is your responsibility to learn how to manage people’s differences effectively. Always assume that people do things for their reasons and not yours.
4. You are responsible for your own learning
Perception is reality. So ask all the questions you need, but ask them only once. You can buddy up with a friendly senior analyst who can go over some of the more complicated things more than once.
Don’t wait for people to tell you what should know. Own your learning. When I started, I did most of my research once the markets closed. Then, I would engage with my traders and spend hours playing with some of our modelling tools, so I could put my learning to work with clients the following day when the markets opened.
5. Be the driver of innovation in your team
As a young analyst, you can bring some disruption to the way that things are done in your group. You can bring a fresh approach to the industry “modus operandi”. So forget about the “this is the way things work around here” and help the team use new tools or processes to become more effective.
Be aware of the value you can add with tiny things, from the get-go. Even by disrupting an obsolete work-flow in your team. Own your career development, so you can add increasing value as you grow. Be ready to give more than you take as you progress, and your team will have your back. And keep your focus on the weekly action, trust the process and let promotions come to you as a result.
Rafael Sarandeses is a former head of institutional FX sales for Southern Europe at Morgan Stanley. He now runs an advisory and investment firm in Africa and is a visiting lecturer at IE Business School.
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