Making a success of your first job as an analyst is an important career milestone. I remember looking up at the 53-story office building from the sidewalk on my first day of work. It was scary, exciting, and pretty intimidating.
Twenty-four years on, here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to do well from the start, and yet live to tell the tale. At its most basic, the message is to approach the new challenge calmly and intelligently.
Resist the temptation to “try too hard” at the expense of your health or your reputation: it’s no good if you burn out or if you alienate people with exaggerated behaviour. If you want to come through some of the most challenging years of your life, you’ll need to:
Know what’s required
Gain clarity on what is expected from you – ask your boss, read the evaluation criteria, and talk to those who have done your job successfully.
Do the fundamentals first
Always meet expectations and exceed them if possible, but don’t go for extra credit unless you’ve satisfied the basic requirements. If you aren’t on track to deliver, speak up right away, before it’s too late for others to help out or plan around it.
Build your network
No matter how good you become technically, banking is a people business. You’ll need a network including senior people who can give you big picture advice and access to opportunities (here, think 1-2 levels up from where you are), peers for the mutual support, and juniors/support staff to help you get the job done.
Don’t compete with your peers – you’re all in this together, so create team spirit and share knowledge. And the way you treat juniors and support staff is the true measure of what kind of person you are – word will get around. Most importantly, be yourself – people can always see through phonies.
Discipline yourself to do the job on a sustainable basis
This often means learning to manage your boss. By asking what’s coming up each day and requesting regular team meetings you’ll be able to better manage your workflow.
Watch the adrenaline. Enthusiasm is great, but too much adrenaline masks the point when you exceed your limits. Don’t be like those cartoon characters that are running so fast that their momentum carries them over the edge of the cliff before they realise where they are and then come crashing down.
Discipline yourself to achieve some measure of work-life balance. Identify what’s really important to you, and make sure you schedule it in. When it comes to key personal events, let your boss know well in advance so they can plan around it, and remind them as the date approaches. You should be able to accommodate at least one personal interest or hobby, and find a way to keep fit. Physical and mental health are linked.
Unless you speak up, people will generally assume that everything is under control and leave you to get on with it. While that’s okay, it’s to your advantage to develop open lines of communication with your team, both senior and junior. Get in the habit of providing brief progress reports whether things are going right. When there’s a problem, propose a solution.
Seek advice on decisions when you don’t know how best to prioritise. Always make sure people know where you are and how to reach you – that can give you freedom not to be chained to your desk.
My father once told me: “Human beings do this job. You can do it too, just do your best and the rest will take care of itself.” Superhuman effort is not required – just keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay on track.