December 12, 2018

Six Sure-fire Steps to Career Dominance

Francis Bradley, Regional Director, Merrill Corporation | December 12, 2018

Everyone’s got advice – your grandpa, your neighbor, your taxi driver, your mom… it’s non-stop. When it comes to building your career, isn’t it time to kill the noise and go straight to someone who has been there, done that and made bank?

That’s what Merrill Corporation thought, so we assembled an all-star panel of dealmakers for a Merrill Insight™ Live breakfast focused on Turbo Charging Your Wall Street Career.

Couldn’t make it because you pulled another all-nighter at work? Here’s a recap of what you missed.

1. Be yourself and know your story. Easier said than done when the pressure is on, right? But interviewers (and bosses) respond to people who are authentic. One panelist told a story of an applicant who came in and started reciting her resume. They were interrupted when another interviewer joined the meeting and asked the applicant to start over. The recitation was precisely the same – no variation, no personality – just a highly rehearsed monologue. The interviewers were not impressed, after all, what will happen when a stressful situation pops up and the new hire has to shoot from the hip? Be ready to have a conversation about your career, not a recitation of your credentials.

2. Be a friend – not a contact. Develop real relationships, take a genuine interest in people you meet and foster those connections. Don’t just collect business cards and load up your contact list with names you think will advance your career – people know when that’s all you want. And don’t just network “up” – your peers are important too. They are going to be there as you look to advance and will be a good “in” for a new gig. Networking is a marathon, not a sprint – and you never know who you’ll meet on your way up, or who can put in a good word for you when you target your dream job.

3. Get a mentor. Or a sponsor. Actually – get both. Mentors and sponsors can play very different roles in your career. Mentors are often assigned and can be a more formal relationship that often helps you focus on big-picture topics, and you need to put in work to understand what you want from a mentor. A sponsor is someone you work with who wants you to move up in your career. This person knows what you’re capable of and is genuinely invested in you. Sponsors get you assigned to the hot deal or keep your name in the conversation when you’re not in the room. Both relationships are important to develop. Be extremely respectful of people’s time and energy when seeking out mentors and sponsors. Be sincere, demonstrate your value and remember that it’s a two-way relationship.

4. Take a lunch. You’re heads-down at your desk and know that you’re going to be there until 2 in the morning. Your managing director walks by and says “Hey, we’re headed to lunch – anyone can come.” Do you go? Our panelists say “YES!” One was particularly emphatic, saying “Looking back, I wish I’d gone 100% of the time. While an extra hour of sleep would be really nice, relationships are really going to help you in your career and make you enjoy your job more. I could’ve learned a lot more from senior bankers over lunch than I could sleeping for an extra hour.” So yeah, you’re at work until 3 a.m. now, but you’ve also made a positive personal connection that can pay real dividends in the end.

5. Have a passion. Never, ever tell someone your passion is Excel pivot tables. One, it’s weird. Two, literally no one will believe you. You’re going to be networking, interviewing, having lunches, building relationships – you need to have something interesting to talk about. Your passion quickly becomes an icebreaker, something you might have in common with a stranger at a networking event, something that makes you stand out in the crowd during competitive interviews at that bank you’re dying to get into.

6. Work/life balance. Our panel assured the audience that “work/life balance” is elusive as you begin your Wall Street career. Long hours and little sleep are the norm. They offered two pieces of advice. One: Get efficient with your downtime. Waiting for comments? Hit the gym, run an errand and take a deep breath. Two: This part of your career won’t last forever. Throw yourself into it, use the workload to see what you might like to specialize in or what direction you want to go. After the first few years, you’ll know you can do anything.

We’ll throw in a final tip – stay on top of your game with Merrill Insight™ Videos and special events. These webcasts look at industries and trends through the eyes of prominent bankers, lawyers and M&A experts so you can hear the latest thinking on a range of topics.

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