Banking careers are being disrupted every day due to the confluence of technology and competition. The traditional career path of being hired and automatically moving up through an organization due to mutual loyalty between a company and the workforce no longer exists.
Instead of waiting for internal and external opportunities to present themselves, mindful executives are now recreating themselves for an ecosystem that rewards creativity and a forward-looking mindset. Winners in the future will realize that a career in banking is not static, but a work in progress that requires the ability to embrace change, accept risks and disrupt yourself. Your life and career must be in a permanent beta.
1. Determine Your Competitive Advantage
If your current job was eliminated today, would you be prepared to compete for the opportunities that present themselves? Would you be able to take your inherent skill sets and apply them in a new way that would benefit your next career stop and make you happy?
When I meet bankers worldwide, I see many who are always looking for the next best opportunity. It is not that they are dissatisfied with what they are doing today. It is that they realize that they want to be ahead of the marketplace and be in a position to embrace some of the exciting changes on the horizon. They are always learning and expanding their skills for the next opportunity as opposed to accepting status quo.
Alternatively, I also meet many bankers who have been in the same organization for the majority of their career. They have taken the road most traveled and have been successful through hard work, a great attitude and loyalty. While not dissatisfied with their job, they worry about whether their job is safe. Yet, they are also frightened of initiating change and not accustomed to taking risks … especially in their career. They have never initiated the learning of new skills or networked with new people.
The first step in building a competitive advantage is to understand the changes in the marketplace and to invest in yourself. You need to be aware of what the jobs of the future will be and what will be required to do them. You also need to determine what assets you have (money, skills, connections and experiences) that can be used to find your next opportunity. Set goals, establish benchmarks and find supporters of your dreams.
2. Have a Plan That Allows For Failure
As with any meaningful goal, it is important to consistently work toward your ultimate objective, being flexible enough to adjust to unexpected opportunities or setbacks. This encourages trial and error and can result in possible failures.
You can learn from a failure. Trying something new is inevitably risky and failure is always a real possibility. In reality, you court failure every day, in everything you do. There are very few certainties, and often, these certainties create barriers to growth. The adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” is a life reality. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work, allowing you to explore new, potentially more exciting opportunities.
As in the game of roulette, it is best to place a number of small bets as you work towards your career and life goals as opposed to betting everything you have on an all or nothing option. This allows you to pivot and adjust your ambitions along the way. Remember, career growth is almost never life and death.
3. Actively Use Your Network
Over the past several months of going to financial services conferences and events, I realized how vast my network of friends has become. These friends not only work in traditional financial institutions, but are owners of small start-ups, executives of large solution providers, leaders in different industries, investors and venture capitalists, and even young bankers just getting started in the industry.
I became aware that if I wanted to change my career path, there was someone I knew who was already in a role similar to the one I may aspire to. And there is no place more accommodating to engaging with a broad network than industry events.
I began to wonder how many attendees at major conferences only use these events to reinforce what is already believed, as opposed to using them as a springboard for new opportunities and a shift outside of an existing comfort zone? Beyond conferences, I also wonder how many people use LinkedIn on a regular basis to communicate with people who are in roles that may have promise in the future.
When expanding your network or working with the network you already have, keep in mind it is best to look at every interaction as a win-win scenario. Most people want to help others and this sets the foundation for asking for assistance regarding your next career opportunity. At the same time, the people you are reaching out to may want to get introductions to others in your network to expand their horizons. The conversations will be mutually beneficial.
4. Be Willing to Disrupt Yourself
To be prepared for the future of banking requires an ability to embrace the change that is upon us, a willingness to take intelligent risks and the internal commitment to disrupt yourself. The marketplace is no longer moving in incremental steps, but this means that opportunities for growth are everywhere.
Unfortunately, since most bankers have a bias against risk, we overestimate the threats related to change and underestimate the rewards that change can bring — we talk ourselves out of moving forward. Most people would look at ‘the next step’ as being permanent, irreversible and not a ‘perfect’ fit.
The reality is that uncertainty does not always equate to being risky. Especially if you have made a plan and done the learning process in a manner that minimizes negative consequences. In the end, you will never have complete certainty about the next great opportunity. But that is part of the fun … really.
You have an amazing opportunity to invest the time and effort to be prepared for the future … and disrupt yourself. Or, you can rest on your laurels, ignore the network you have created (or can create), and wait for the marketplace to disrupt you. It’s the difference between being involved in your future destiny or being a bystander as your future is defined for you.