I am going to start at the end rather than the beginning. The reason for doing that is to build upon my theory that in the absence of a comprehensive career plan each of us will, invariably, end up somewhere that we didn’t want to go. By the time we realize it, it’s often too late!
So let me frame the problem by looking at a couple of important components of managing a career from the perspective of what I should have done. Then I’ll look at the individual decisions that took me in the wrong direction. For those that are interested, I will develop a comprehensive career management strategy. Decisions can then be made in the context of a plan. Remember, this is a planning tool. The nature of plans is that they need to be monitored, reviewed and amended subject to changing circumstances and preferences. It should be done knowingly, not by simply reacting to a temporary shift in the winds that blow us one direction or another.
What should have been my plan?
Okay, so where do I start?
My career goals were pretty clear to me when I was younger, the field that I wanted to work in was investment banking.
So my first look would be at what is investment banking? I had a vague idea that it revolved around the raising of capital by major corporations. I didn’t want to be involved in the small stuff. My interest evolved from an early exposure to the stock markets. When I was young (and I am talking about age thirteen), I used to religiously read everything that I could get my hands. Anything that related to corporations and their balance sheets, earnings history, etc. There wasn’t much around in the sixties that was easy to get a hold of, but there was enough for me to read.
So I am first going to look at what an investment banker is:
An investment banker is an individual who works in a financial institution that is in the business primarily of raising capital for companies, governments and other entities, or who works in a large bank’s division that is involved with these activities, often called an investment bank.
The description provided is accurate and complete enough for me to get my thoughts together and look at what I needed to do to become an investment banker.
As I mentioned above, reading financial information was how I spent my time. Looking at the investment merits of companies, reading stockbroker reports and other publications that were available to me at the time. Initially, my interest was in the stock market. Looking at the stock market lead me to capital raising. Capital raising as a career invariably led me to investment banking. If I wanted to be involved in capital raising. What skills would I need to do to get into the firms that were investment banks?
What attributes did the employees have who were investment bankers as it relates to education and work experience? Where are investment bankers located geographically? I’m sure that there are investment bankers in Iowa, but cities such as New York and London, England were the ones on my radar screen. I was looking for an entry-level position and would have to compete with individuals whose credentials were potentially more impressive than mine as they relate to these positions.
Starting the plan
So this should have been my initial cut:
- Which firms hire investment bankers?
- What attributes do investment bankers have in terms of education and background?
- Where can I learn about the firms that hire investment bankers?
- Can I develop strategies to find a job?
- When it comes to investment banking what are my interests?
As you can see, there is a great deal of work to do. Putting together your list by location, finding out who to contact, learning about what they do, strategy, and what areas within an investment banking firm do I want to work in.
For whatever reason, I had much of this in mind when I starting to build my career. The thing that I didn’t do was document it and use the plan as the basis for decision making. In the absence of the plan, well you’ll see. Some very wrong-headed decisions indeed! I had the enthusiasm and perseverance but in the end, I failed to have a comprehensive action plan.