Recruiting is stressful. We have to deal with the pressures of networking, prepping, interviewing, following up, and then of course, the worst part – waiting. Interestingly enough, however, for most candidates, the underlying stress of recruiting goes far deeper than the technicalities they need to go through in order to find a job. The fundamental stressors are much more high-level than that. They tend to take form in uninvited existentialist questions that sit in the back of our minds. They pop up unexpectedly, raising uncomfortable emotions and overtime build in weight and in pressure. If any of these questions sound familiar, you’re not alone…
“Am I making the right career decisions? Will working in ABC geography or XYZ industry derail my future goals? What if I never get to where I want to be? What if I do, and I realize that I hate it?”
These topics are difficult enough as is, and only made worse in a weaker economy. How do you balance getting a job, at this point maybe you’re thinking any relevant job, with manoeuvring the long-term trajectory of your professional career? And what if you do make the wrong choice? Well, I’m here to tell you the good news – there isn’t a wrong choice! No one job is powerful enough to derail the direction of your entire future. Sure, you might make it slightly harder for yourself, but the reality is that you are making the best decision you can make with the information you have and in the circumstances you are currently in. And that’s all of us can ever expect of ourselves.
So, let’s assume that for whatever reason, your idea of the “perfect” job doesn’t seem like it will be happening right now. As you’re exploring alternatives, what should you try to prioritize in your search?
A broad scope: The reason why investment banking and consulting roles seem to open so many doors is not because they are the absolute best way of dedicating a few years of your life. Rather, it’s because they offer an opportunity to learn a broad array of skills whilst seeing a variety of different types of strategic solutions. They also present you with the chance to work with different clients who all have different wants and needs. This isn’t unique to these two industries though – you can replicate the same sort of experience in just about any role where you’re presented with an array of novel and complex challenges. Just about any client-facing role will give you the chance to work on similar problems. Even internal corporate strategy roles, where you are focused on one company but likely will come across a number of projects, can offer this experience. Target a job with a high learning curve where you will be challenged.
Technical skills: When you are early on in your finance career, developing strong technical skills is key. Future employers will not want to train you on the basics, so in your job search, make sure you focus on pursuing roles that will. If the job itself involves analyzing financial statements, modelling, and complex problem solving – great! If you’re not sure you’ll get as much of that work on the job, see if the firm offers training programs or allows you the time to build on these skill-sets yourself. You want to prove to future interviewers that you have solid knowledge of the basics, but you can do this in a number of different ways. As long as the job you are considering provides you with some opportunity to focus on building these skills, you’re likely much better positioned than you may think.
Culture: The further I get in my career, the more I realize the value of a good culture and great managers. This is important for so many reasons. For one, if you are miserable at work it’s incredibly difficult to do well. Target a job where you like the people you are working with, not one when you’re trying to get out of there as soon as possible. If you find some joy in your day to day, this will show in your attitude and in your work product, ensuring a much better ranking and performance review. Working for good bosses is important for very similar reasons. You team and your superiors can help you build the skill-sets you care about. They can work with you to get you on the right projects, and provide feedback which will help in
improving your performance. This also becomes extremely important when you are applying for your next role or deciding to go back to school. A manager that has your back will put much more effort into writing business school recommendations or assisting with your networking efforts. Don’t underestimate the importance of finding the right firm culture.
The fact that no decision is a detrimental decision should come of great relief to you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t work to position yourself in the best way possible moving forward – these three tips should help you make the best situation of your circumstances, as well as hopefully help address those questions festering in the back of all of our minds.
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