By Jonathan Max
I started at Lehman Brothers in 2005 in their HR team; they had been a client organisation of mine for a few years and was I extremely excited to be joining in the heady days of a raging bull market. While an industry contact had informed me of the potential role; there was the ‘standard’ interview process of seemingly meeting everyone. Did I really know what to expect or how to make the most of the opportunity? Not really is the honest answer.
I learned how to progress my career as I went along; but, in truth was more focused on being accepted and delivering in what was a culturally unique organisation. I stayed at Lehman Brothers until it reached its dénouement in 2008. After the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, I transferred to Nomura and was again part of a fascinating journey with many twists and turns along the way. The market was clearly in a very different place; the next years were a seemingly endless journey of organisational ‘Re’....Restructuring, Realignment, Repositioning, Reorganisation and so on. I left Nomura in 2017 and now reflect on what I wish someone had told me in 2005 about career development; so I have summarised as follows:
Find a mentor
My approach here was somewhat ad-hoc. I had a great relationship with my line manager and then an organisation change resulted in a different reporting line. To placate some pre-existing hostility between my former and new line manager; the safest route was to form a ‘mentoring relationship’ with my previous manager so I could still benefit from his considerable insight and advice. I developed several mentoring relationships; both within and outside the companies. A couple were more formal, the others less so but equally valuable. They were people with different backgrounds and experience who could share information and provide guidance.
Sun Microsystems undertook a body of research around its own mentoring programme, which came up with some very compelling results Mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in the programme; mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the programme. Having mentoring in your early career is obviously going to speed up progress, but according to the Harvard Business Review article on mentoring “Everyone we spoke with over age 40 could name a mentor in his or her professional life, but younger people often could not”. Therefore, to get ahead of the game and progress your career you need to think carefully about how to develop the right mentoring relationships and do this early on. Or, put another way, when you can gain practical advice and learn from the experience of others; why would you not seek mentoring relationships?
Join Networking Groups
I founded what was to become the largest employee driven network at Nomura; comprising over 750 people in the UK and beyond and holding several events every month. So why did I do this? Because I thought it would be a bit of fun and with the support of my manager and head of diversity something that would bring a bit of variety to me professionally and personally.
With this decision, I completely missed the significant benefit this would have on my career. I was able to find new ways to navigate the organisation and find the find answers I needed. I had ‘friendly’ contacts in many departments; if they couldn’t help me they would point me in the right direction. As my day-to-day work became complex and involved working across several different groups and businesses; I had the right contacts to make things easier. I’m not saying you need to form a group but being part of internal and external networking groups is absolutely essential to successful career development. This article; 10 Important Benefits of Networking is a very accurate overview of why this needs to be part of your game-plan.
Leverage the appraisal process
I don’t think I was in a group of one in my early approach to appraisals and performance management. Typically, following a number of automated reminders, I would complete the mid-year or year-end process with seconds to spare and that was that until the next reminder arrived in my inbox. Most of the completion time was spend on ‘refreshing’ myself on the objectives I had set and then trying to recall enough information to make a decent attempt at well considered response.
My advice here is embrace the appraisal process to your advantage as I started to do after realising how I could benefit from a more structured approach; how you evidence your achievements is just as important as how you determine your goals and where to focus your skills. Contrary to popular myth, a sense of entitlement on how your career should progress doesn’t work! What is truer is that management talk and discuss people; so make sure you are in the group of people that gets discussed for the right reasons and opportunities will come your way. Even if the traditional annual performance appraisal process is giving way to more frequent conversations between a manager and subordinate; make sure you are ready to have discussions about your future.
Know your Industry
Earlier on in my career, I was too focused on my immediate environment and in trying to deliver day-to-day. Therefore, my perspectives were too internalised, and I wasn’t able to draw on external sources for new or alternative perspectives. I started to change this; attending industry events; reading and learning to increase my understating of the industry and how different elements knitted together.
What I didn’t realise immediately, is that managers are having to demonstrate this very thing to their superiors and don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to get into all the detail. Making yourself a ‘go-to person’ for information enhances your personal brand and with that you get to get involved in more interesting projects and assignments and hence career development is a beneficial consequence.
As Abraham Lincoln said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it.", that’s not something you can leave for someone else to do if you want to progress your career.
By Andy Milner
An interesting read from TheCityUK, which highlights the lack of diversity and need for more FinTech skills as being key challenges across FS.
Financial Services Skills Taskforce - Interim report | TheCityUK
By Andy Milner
This year it has been hard to escape Pride season – throughout June and into July there have been events all around the world commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the effective start of the fight for equal rights for the LGBT+ community.
The celebration of diversity has gone well and truly mainstream, with companies from PWC and Barclays to Argos and GoPro changing their logos to include a rainbow flag. Marks and Spencers are even pushing a new “LGBT” sandwich, adding guacamole to the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato combo.
Our industry is also in on the action, with the Investment Association and Schroders amongst the organisations that are showing their support via updated logos.
Is this public outpouring of support for the LGBT+ community merely a sign of corporations attempting to “diversity-wash” their images, or reflective of deeper changes in their attitudes and approaches to D&I?
According to Stonewall, 6 in 10 LGBT+ 18-24 year olds are still choosing to hide their sexuality in the workplace, which is perhaps not surprising when 1 in 5 of those who have come out say they have been the target of negative comments or conduct in the workplace.
The Investment Association’s new report Do You Remember the First Time? (the follow up to last year’s Bringing Your Whole Self To Work report) is about coming out and being out in Investment Management and makes for interesting reading.
It highlights practical steps that can be taken to improve the experience of LGBT+ individuals in areas including recruitment, employee on-boarding, workplace policies and people management. It’s also encouraging to read a number of real-world examples of where these are being put into place across the industry.
What definitely feels like a positive change is the growing ground-up movement, supported by a number of Industry initiatives, that has been beginning to push the LGBT+ equality agenda more visibly in the last year or so. In 2019, the City of London has been host to more Pride related events than ever before, from talks and discussion panels, to the raising of the Pride flag over the Guildhall in the run up to London Pride this weekend.
Next week also sees the official launch of InterInvest – an industry wide LGBT+ network with the potential to make a real impact on how LGBT+ professionals surface and tackle the issues they face. This sits alongside LGBT Great, an initiative of the Diversity Project, which has just announced its 50-for-50 list of LGBT+ role models – an important part of the strategy for making LGBT+ professionals feel accepted and comfortable.
All of this suggests cause for optimism. However, we also shouldn’t forget that LGBT+ hate crimes are on the rise in the UK and in other parts of the world as the forces of populism become more prominent.
So are these public displays of support just rainbow-washing? The verdict isn’t clear.
Peter Tatchell, a prominent campaigner sees it as a capitalist sell-out of the Pride movement’s principles. However, even if some of the motives are cynical, and it is not a true reflection of real progress, at the very least the increased visibility of the Pride movement helps to further bring the LGBT+ community into the mainstream of public perception.
Here’s to more rainbow logos in 2020.
Main photo credit: Matias Altbach