I want to thank Financial Freedom 101 for giving me the opportunity to guest post. I started Cash Chronicles as a way to organize my thoughts and deal with my own frustrations with my career and the job market 4 years ago. I wrote posts in fits and starts until the last year and a half when I leaned in and consistently posted twice a week on a whole range of topics. It has helped me to hone my writing skills and really complemented my career in a way that I couldn’t have anticipated at the outset. Even if you aren’t getting paid for it, doing something you are passionate about always has spillover effects.
If there is one area where I feel I have some perspective and can give some helpful pointers, it’s on getting your foot in the door, especially in these difficult times. I started my own career in 2007 in finance (I hate the term”Wall St.” since people have different definitions of what that actually means) specifically in mortgage backed securities, needless to say it didn’t go well. My tenacity and my determination is what made the difference though and enabled me to land a job which, by luck I was able to ride out the recession with and eventually thrive in. Given my experience 13 years later, here are a few things I hope will help your thought process and your attitude while pursuing a job in this market.
Be Aggressive – Nothing sets you apart more than doing what most people won’t. I was reminded of this recently when a colleague reached out to me to chat about my role and any opportunities available in my area. Although there were none available I was willing to listen knowing that maybe I know someone else who may be able to help him. I was surprised to find that he was actually an intern at my firm and was looking to land a permanent role.
His group had already stated that due to the pandemic, they would not be hiring the interns next year as they normally do. Rather than sit back and sulk about it, this particular intern decided to do something about it. Honestly it takes a lot of courage for an intern to reach out to a Director level or VP level employee they don’t know but I was willing to help him just because of the determination he showed.
I have done things in the past to get hired that could have easily gotten me hauled off by security or even arrested. I showed up at a consulting partner’s office when they didn’t respond to my application, I phoned the office of the global head of securitization at a ratings agency. I was able to do this by digging for information and taking a leap of faith. Those moves got me interviews and eventually got me hired.
The advantage you have starting out is that no one knows you. You may see that as a weakness but I can assure you it’s not. It means you can do crazy things because you don’t know where you will end up. Once you are entrenched in a niche you will find the world is small but you aren’t there yet and may not end up in that niche so who cares? You may never see many of these people again. When thinking of different ways to approach a company or person for a role it pays to remember what a former Head of Emerging Markets once told me: “its better to be remembered than forgotten.”
Remain Positive – If I could go back in time and give my younger self advice it would be: have more confidence in yourself. When someone puts you down or treats you bad in an interview, that doesn’t say anything about you, it’s says something about them and the company they work for. I would rather go unemployed and live with my mom for 6 months than work for terrible people or be in a terrible culture, no matter what they are paying me.
The effect on your psychological state, mental health and relationships will suffer in the wrong environment so don’t let the judgement of others affect your self esteem or confidence in your own abilities in any way.
It also means don’t take things personal. Just because you didn’t land a job when you were one of 2 candidates left doesn’t mean someone else will be better than that job than you or was even better qualified. Interviews usually have nothing to do with the level of performance at a job so it may have been that they knew someone internally who gave a great reference or the hiring manager was looking for a particular profile. It usually has nothing to do with you as a person. The idea of a “good fit” is a subjective concept and will be highly dependent on the type of person who is making the decision and their background, don’t let “almost” situations get you down.
Working for a Great Boss is One of the Most Important Choices – When you start out you don’t know anything. You will have to learn everything on how to do your job first hand in the first few years but you will eventually get it. I have had bosses that are good for you at the early development stage but not so good once you start to progress, avoid these bosses.
A manager that really takes you under his or her wing and guides you will be 10 times more valuable in the long than someone who just wants to manage you and fears you taking their place. A true leader who is good at their job will likely move up the ranks and can take you into the stratosphere with them. If not that, they may at least give you the soft skills to supercharge your own career. Don’t underestimate the importance of this, almost every Wall St. big wig started out under the tutelage of another legendary leader.
That being said, you don’t want to jump onto a sinking ship either. An opportunity may seem great but at the end of the day company’s have to be making money and doing well to be able to promote and pay people more, don’t get caught in the honey trap of a great offer at a terrible company.
Do What You Enjoy Doing – I hated hearing this, I wanted to get paid. This probably would have been the toughest one for my young self to follow but it’s also probably the most important things.
The people who move up and catapult themselves into the upper echelons of their career don’t just work hard. They have a vision for themselves and for the world around them driven by their passion. If you don’t like what you are doing, you won’t put in the extra time when no one is paying you for it, or when there isn’t a promotion involved. Ironically these are the moments that usually set you apart and move you up. The only way to push you when it’s not about money is to really enjoy what you are doing or have a deep interest in it.
Looking back, I would have taken a starting position that made less if it was in an area I was keenly interested in. I know now that I’m the long run, my interest would have quickly moved me up and earned me more. I didn’t see that at the time though, I was too concerned with what I was going to make or comparing myself to my other classmates because of my lower self esteem at the time. Looking back, these worries were silly. I only talk to a select few people I went to school with and I could care less what they make because we’ve all taken different paths. There’s no right answer to the course of life.
You are going to hit dead ends as well. You may think a role is great and 3 months in realize it isn’t the place for you. The best thing you can do is admit you made a wrong turn and move on, don’t waste your life away hanging on to a place that you don’t fit into, trust me, no matter how much you tell yourself, it won’t get better.
It’s not going to be easy but this will also be a great time to prove your grit and determination to face great challenges. Your life and your career will be filled with huge challenges you can’t even foresee yet so you might as well get started on a big one now. It will leave you stronger and able to endure much more later on. I actually feel bad for the people I see in former employers that cling to their jobs for fear of change or fear of losing their role. They don’t realize there is a world of possibility outside of the comfort zone, you all that are graduating are just getting to know that sooner than some.