Over the years I’ve employed dozens of people, many of whom were just starting their careers. I’ve helped many people transition from entry-level staff to senior managers and directors within the investments industry.
I am always willing to invest my time in someone who first commits to investing in themselves. I say this because while many people talk about growing their careers, not everyone puts the energy into doing so. If you are just starting out and want to build a career, you must first look inward.
What can you do to help yourself? It’s quite simple:
- Absorb as much information as possible, whether it comes from industry research, department meetings, competitive intelligence, and so on. If you’re new, almost everyone around you knows more than you. Respect this fact and use it to your advantage to learn.
- Understand what your firm does, who it serves and what makes it different from its competitors. Determine industry threats and opportunities, and company weaknesses and strengths. Get a sense of the competitive landscape.
- Take the time to connect with the people you serve – internal or external clients. Ask them a lot of questions about their opinions on the business and listen. Some people see the vague offer for an open-ended ‘coffee chat’ as a waste of time. Instead, get to the point and say “I’d like to get your thoughts on topic X”. First, email them the question. If they’d rather talk on the phone or meet for coffee they’ll let you know.
- Observe the successful people in your industry and emulate them to a degree. Of course, you shouldn’t uncomfortably adopt a fake persona but if you see a common theme among successful people you might have no choice but to try new things.
- Ask for feedback and learn from that feeback. Your boss is paid to be your mentor. Take advantage of that, but also reach out to colleagues for feedback. A lot of work is subjective so you want to get multiple opinions on your work. As you get feedback, remember it and incorporate it into future efforts.
- Make lists. Every time you get a new task add it to a list in a notebook. At the end of each day cross completed items off your list and copy incomplete items onto a new list on the next page of your notebook. Lists are a critical tool to help ensure you get things done. It’s simple, but it works. Lists were key to my success.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. So many people in big companies get complacent and after saying they’ll do something never follow through. While they might not get in trouble, they do lose credibility.
- Arrive early and work late. I’m sorry, this one sucks. But if you want to build your career you need to invest in your work. One of the simplest ways to set yourself from others is to work harder than others. Of course, don’t allow yourself to burn out or become unproductive. If it’s 7pm and you’re just spinning your wheels it might be time to call it a day. Personally, what takes me an hour at 6pm might take me 10 minutes the next morning.
- Remember: We’re all just winging it. The only thing setting you apart from more experienced people is knowledge and experience. They aren’t better or more skillful. So don’t feel inferior. After all, more experienced people are still making it up as they go – they just have more information to depend on.
- Promote your work. After you’ve completed a task send an email to the team or present it in your department meeting. Teach people how to use your work. Show people what you’ve done and what you’re capable of.
I think by doing these 10 things consistently, a junior level employee can start to set themselves apart from the pack.