EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO
ACHIEVE PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS.
1. Your first job
Your first job is important, it sets the tone for your entire career.
Choose wisely, and aim for the best. If you are trying to break into competitive niche areas, just keep trying until you get there.
In the beginning, it is tempting to think short-term and make decisions to get paid more or get promoted quickly. If you ask the people who have done very well in their careers, they all emphasize that it is more important to adopt a long-term view of your career. Do the things that benefit you in the long-term. Don't sacrifice the forest for a tree.
In practical terms, you may want to pick a company where you learn the most, where you are being challenged and have good mentors, even if it means you are not being paid the highest bonuses or have the fanciest title. Focus on developing your skills. In the long-term, having the right foundational skill-sets will truly bring you far.
You are only young once. You have the time and energy to try your best, in any competitive field. You can hustle, and this really counts in the first stage of your career. People are also very understanding when you are young and new, and are more willing to give you room to make mistakes. This stage is also the time to find good mentors, and prove yourself to them. Don't think about how they can benefit you, think about how you can benefit them. Providing value is the best way to network.
In this series, SuccessGoGo interviews successful professionals from banking, consulting and law to provide helpful insights on climbing the corporate ladder. In this interview, SuccessGoGo sat down with Michael, an investment banker at a leading investment bank in Singapore.
What's the best part about being a banker?
The width of exposure to multiple industries and businesses, interaction with leaders of industry and c-suite level management very early on in career and learning from senior bankers.
Did anything at school help prepare you for the job?
The soft skills you learn (teamwork, communications, project management, etc) in school probably matter a lot more than whatever is officially taught as part of your degree. The caveat is that you will also polish your technical and financial skills and knowledge to the level needed to pass the interviews and start on the job.
1. Urgency Matrix
To make the best use of your time, you should set time-limits for your tasks and group similar or related tasks together. It is better to finish one task completely before moving on to the next. It is tempting to jump from one task to another, as and when they come in but this creates a lot of inefficiency.
The Eisenhower Matrix above is a useful starting point to batch tasks and prioritize.
Important > Urgent. Try to focus on important tasks rather than urgent tasks and you will find that you will get much more done rather than just getting bogged down with minutiae. You may also start to realize that many “urgent” tasks resolve themselves without you.
Research shows that only around 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time. Start tracking time spent, and then use this knowledge to set reasonable time-limits for each task. This will allow you to organize your day much more effectively.
“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Building a successful career requires a long-term and strategic mindset. Here are 4 habits that might be holding you back.
1. Doing only what you are asked
If you want to rise in the company, you need to take initiative. Doing only what you are asked may prevent you from getting fired (for now), but it will never get you anywhere. Wherever possible, stretch yourself, initiate ideas and help others’ out. Every experience is a valuable one, will help you grow and signal to your boss that you are someone to watch.
1. Tell a compelling story
As a general guide, we would say that employers are looking for:
(i) Academic and intellectual ability;
(ii) Willingness to learn and adaptability;
(iii) Client-facing awareness; and
(iv) Leadership qualities.
It is a non-starter that academic qualifications are a pre-requisite to break into the ultra-competitive fields of investment banking and management consulting. However, there are many ways to showcase intellectual prowess, not necessarily defined to grades. This applies similarly to showcasing adaptability and leadership. Backpacking in India alone and overcoming adversity when you were left stranded without a Wifi signal VS. Emerging as the wining team through a grueling 3-round case competition VS. Being awarded the Golden Bayonet or Sword of Honours during your National Service are all equally valid indicators of your abilities. Using a right mix of experience points will help convince your employer of your strengths.
Client-facing awareness requires a composite mix of IQ and EQ. You can signal maturity and strong communication skills in a variety of ways. For instance, being tasked to handle a delicate situation as president of a student society or liaising with various external stakeholders in an event that you coordinated. Be sure to highlight specific and tangible instances where your role was highly valued.
Let's be honest. The past couple of years have not been fantastic for the finance industry as a whole. To get a job in investment banking these days, you truly have to be able to stand out from the crowd. IBD interviewers are notoriously demanding, so make sure that you rehearse responses to commonly asked investment banking questions, and then some.