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The 10 ways to maintain a long career in finance

Admin| Apr 11, 2017 - 02:23 AM India

The 10 ways to maintain a long career in finance

I recently gave a talk on how to survive a long career in the capital markets, something I somehow managed to accomplish.

It was delivered to an engaging and enthusiastic bunch of people from across the capital markets sector in Frankfurt. But no one should underestimate the challenges of working in an industry which faces rolling uncertainty.

Business models of banks and other market players are being challenged by regulations and technology resulting in significant demands being placed on the individual employee.

So often employers seem ill-equipped to assist the individual in his or her career journey so every individual has to find her or his way usually with little help.

While it is not easy to try to sum up the best ways to handle such a fast-moving environment, the underlying dynamic nature of the industry has always been consistently demanding.

Today’s challenges are not so very different from those of past decades. Specific responses will vary depending on personalities and situations and my suggestions are highly subjective, but the need to stay fit and deal with stress while working long hours under pressure presents the same sorts of challenge as were faced by previous generations of financial market workers.

Here are 10 general guidelines:

1. Maintain a grounded sense of perspective

It is common for people in finance to be recruited on the promise and premise that they are tomorrow’s leaders, but the definition of leader and how to be one leads to disappointment, frustration and disillusionment. Moreover, change across the industry means that one minute a gifted individual has a talent in short supply but the next it is no longer in demand. In a career, look up and ahead to aspire. Look back and below to stay sane.

2. Take your job and yourself seriously, but remember that job and self are not the same thing

Given the long hours and intensity of much of the job, larges parts of which can demand entrepreneurial zeal while drawing a salary, it is inevitable that some people become absorbed and obsessive about their jobs. Individuals must learn to balance their lives between developing their own interests, maintaining their health and working hard. Life and health can be unpredictable- you owe it to yourself to live life. Employers owe you little but statutory rights.

3. A job is for now, while family is for life

It remains a depressing fact that certain professions are bad for marriage and family life. Parts of financial services, sadly, see people become forgetful of their other human responsibilities. When a job or career finishes partner and family should still be there for you and you for them. They need more than a monthly cheque and occasional visit late in the evening. When the family dog no longer knows you and growls, then this may indicate that the balance is wrong.

4. Fun is a legitimate part of work and a vital part of life

A healthy sense of humour and fun is an effective tool against stress. Going into the office should not be a grind, although not everything at work can, or even should be fun. Compliance training may even be rather dull and not all customers or colleagues are a bundle of laughs. Nevertheless, try to remember life is for living and work is for life.

5. Keep your professional and social networks vibrant

They are key to career and personal development. People are social creatures. Career development may well depend on good connections allied to technical skills. Don’t let the long hours and desk time pressure cut you off from vital connections in professional and private life. In financial markets human bonds of trust and confidence are important and cannot be digitised.

6. Be happy about what you can influence, but philosophical about what is beyond your control

A lot of career events are not entirely predictable, nor controllable. Being resilient to unexpected setbacks is vital. Most people suffer these, often at inconvenient times. Weather the storm to better enjoy the sun when it shines again.

7. Stay calm and thoughtful

How you deal with adversity and pressure tells more about you than when things go well. Bad judgement, bad luck and bad news are a part of any career. Dealing calmly under these pressures should get you noticed in positive ways.

8. Success comes in many shapes and sizes

Set goals appropriately and don’t be afraid to adjust your objectives with the passing of time. Not many can get to the very top, and equally not even the ambitious necessarily want to pay the price of relentlessly climbing the greasy pole. A career is a marathon not a sprint. Be prepared to seek fulfilment by moving sideways or to a smaller, but more interesting job. Don’t measure success purely in dollar terms or numbers of people under your command, though many still do. On those measures time is a great leveller.

9. This industry attracts the brightest and some of the best. They are not always nice or balanced people

It does not pay to underestimate people across the industry. However brightness and educational level do not mean they are pleasant and sociable people to work with. Learn how to deal with clever but sometimes dysfunctional people. Growing a thick skin is part of navigating the corporate environment.

10. Don’t be doing yesterday’s job tomorrow

Try to stay a few steps ahead, be ready for change and be adept at reinvention. Technological change, strategic business shifts, falling margins- there are many reasons jobs are lost or promotion opportunities become limited. Keep the crystal ball well polished and try to adapt your skill set before it is consigned to the dustbin of history.


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