Sunday, March 25, 2012

He answered, "I want to make a lot of money."

Monday night last, I hosted a workshop at a well-regarded university. We focused on employment in the financial services industry. As I do frequently, I asked a student why he was interested in financial services. "I want to make a lot of money," he said. It was an answer I'd heard before and found less than satisfactory.

After receiving that answer I usually probe deeper suggesting alternative careers including: heart surgery, computer sales, or bio-engineering. Once again I usually get a replay of the first response. "I like finance and I want to make a lot of money."

Honestly, I find that answer, or something like it, shallow, thoughtless, and somewhat concerning. 

First, it indicates the job applicant has little knowledge of the income structure found in financial services today. Mega-incomes are now relatively few. There are fewer positions due to the consolidation of the financial services industry, there are fewer deals being done, and the margins per transaction are narrower.

Secondly, if you don't like what you are doing, the promise of a big income down the road can only hold your interest so long. Sooner or later interest will slip away. Then what?

Lastly, if someone tells me that they are primarily interested in income with few supporting interests, I wonder what shortcuts they will take in order to fill their bank account. People, I believe, don't start out to be dishonest. However, they might cut a corner here or there, step across the line just a little, and after a time they are so far out on a limb that there is no way back. That is, until they put the cuffs on.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Elevator Pitch

“Tell me about yourself.” It’s a simple directive from an interviewer that is not only a narrative but it’s indicative of your thought process and your confidence. Think of it as the introductory paragraph to your interview.

It’s called an elevator pitch, because it should take no longer than the length of a multi-floor elevator ride. In reality, the response should last 30 sec. to 1 minute. Remember, less is more.

In that collection of sentences you want to introduce data points that will make you attractive to the interviewer. If you are interviewing for a position in a highly competitive industry you need to demonstrate your ability to compete. If you need to work independently you need an example of that. If tenacity is required, when have you been focused and persistent? This is an opportunity to introduce your unique characteristics.

No, you probably have not discovered a cure for cancer. However, you may have grown up in a single parent home where you are the first person in your extended family to attend college. Maybe you arrived at university with no interest in science and you are now graduating with honors in biology. Once again, you want to show relative maturity and your ability to overcome challenges.

Stay away from the unimportant. Being one of three children from a middle-class family in suburban New York is only important if it made a demonstrable difference in your life. Your goal is to package yourself so that the interviewer wants to know more about you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Network, Network, Network-Do It Intelligently

Ask yourself, “How do I get behind the HR and company internet application battlements?”
(Battlements are slotted defensive positions atop castle walls that allowed defenders to shoot arrows and pour molten pitch down on crazed attackers.  Getting career information or an interview feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?)
Networking is vital in your job search and will remain critical throughout your life. The people in your network can inform you of a job opening at their workplace or at the workplace of someone in their network. People in your network can also be the source of expertise. They can also provide a reality check in a period of personal confusion.
In your initial job search, connect with anyone and everyone. Who do you know, who do your parents know, and who do your professors know? Are there alumni who have agreed to mentor in their fields?  Everyone, to one degree or another, fears rejection. If someone is not responsive, it means nothing more than they weren’t responsive! That’s it and nothing more.  If someone is nonresponsive don’t accept defeat. Move on. You need information and want introductions.
Finally, DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you contact someone. Know who they are and what they do. Don’t expect them to open the top of your head and pour in the information. For a mentor, it is painful, after doing it one or two times, to start at the very beginning once again. To elicit a constructive response you must prove to your contact that you care enough and that you are mature enough to be prepare for the conversation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Value System Upon Which To Build a Professional Life

It’s been said, “If you tell the truth you won’t have to remember what you said.” We’ve also seen people previously in lofty business or government positions shipped off to jail, not for the crime being investigated but for lying to authorities.  
In a professional situation, no matter what the intention, people will make errors. Disclose the error promptly. Understand, managers are not only evaluated on their productivity but also on the control of  their area of responsibility. Being surprised by an error committed by someone in his charge might be enough to get the manager and to error maker fired.
I have observed the following: People who break laws get caught sooner or later.  In the financial services business the government spends millions of dollars annually to catch violators.  Do they get everyone? No. All of us have seen that. However the chances of getting caught make dishonesty a bad business proposition.
When making decisions relying on a properly oriented moral compass one has the opportunity to work for a favorable outcome. However, by stepping over the legal or ethical line, one must not only worry about the outcome but also the consequences. 
Once one loses the trust of others, it is almost impossible to get it back.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Preparing for an interview-Start at the beginning. Discover your passion.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

Start with these thoughts: Absent tragedy, you will grow older and if you pay attention, you will become wise. Don't give up your youth. Don't let the vicissitudes of life steal your hope, optimism, or drive. Remember, if you try at all, you will experience failure, or better described as the absence of success. How you re-engage after that is the true measure of who you are.

When young people enter college they often become involved in college life: studying, football games, on-campus activities, and maybe a social movement. It’s often easy to move with the herd when seeking comradery. Sure we want to be loved but don't give your life away for acceptance.

University can be one of life's great smorgasbords. While some may be looking for a classes that meet after 11 so they can sleep in or guts that will puff up their averages, college is a great time to try things that you have never tried before. Is it not like trying a new food?  Yet it's a chance to uncover an unknown path?  Dare to go to events that you would never have considered before. There is no risk! If you hate it, leave early and never go back.

Lastly, start exploring early, at once, right away! The sooner you start to create a framework for your future, the sooner you will have something constructive to say in during an interview.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Self-Empowerment. It's an Inside Job

An effective job-search requires self-confidence. Self-confidence evolves from personal empowerment which is created through practice and preparation.

Think, for a moment, about trying to gain personal power from the outside. Do material goods create power: a hot car, clothes, jewelery? Perhaps they provide some satisfaction for a brief time but it's only temporary. All things have a limited useful life.

Having wealthy parents or going to the right school might help in terms of being able to  make  it through a screening process. Then what?  When an interviewer asks you questions about you, your dreams, your failures, then it's all about you and you have to be ready.

Preparation is the ultimate empowering tool. Championship athletes may be talented but they practice, run, swim, row, etc. more than their competitors. Yo-Yo Ma,  the world's finest cellist, practices for hours on end.  When these people take to the field or the stage they are confident because they are ready and they know it.

How to prepare for an interview? That's for next time.