In the beginning

In the beginning


Career mismanagement is my theme. Looking at the way we make decisions and the effect that they have in the long-term on our careers and our lives. In fact, each decision that we make has a long-term effect that we may not notice for years.

When I was growing up

Throughout my teens, I was a stock market enthusiast. I started investing in stocks when I was thirteen. I read everything that I could get my hands on at the time. There was no internet so finding information was more than a bit challenging. I started to look at the world of finance as I got closer to university. Finally, I graduated from high school and needed to decide my major/minor. I enrolled in the Commerce program at the university when I finally arrived there. So how was that going to work out?

I had really no idea how to go about pursuing my interest in finance, the stock market, and investments. But I did understand the role of investment bankers and found the thought of joining their ranks compelling. As I mentioned above, I thought the way to follow my dream was to enroll in the Commerce program, with a major in accounting. Accounting seemed to be the key to everything finance related. If you understand the numbers, there’s not much that you can’t do.

Classes began and I hated my accounting courses. At the same time, I loved my economics courses and thoroughly enjoyed the professor teaching me economics. I remember him being a pipe smoker, which I thought was pretty cool at the time. Guess what, I started to develop an interest in pipe smoking! I was not unique at all in adopting my new found hobby. It was the late sixties/early seventies and pipe smoking among academics was all the rage.

So I dropped out of Commerce and registered with the Economics Department. I loved my economics courses and loaded up on whatever courses I could find (excluding anything to do with mathematics or statistics based economics courses such as Econometrics, which I was, however, forced to take with my four-year program before I could graduate with a major in Economics). But how would that further my career? Would the decision to leave accounting help or hinder it?

So what were the implications of this seemingly minor decision?

I had no idea what the prerequisites were for developing a career in investment banking. Being young, I failed to do the necessary due diligence. So here was the first instance of a decision, seemingly a small one, that would have a major impact on my future. The first flip-flop in a plan to get me where I wanted to go. But one thing I do know now that I didn’t know then was that I made the wrong choice. So why was it the wrong choice? What should I have done differently?

Economists at the time had limited employment prospects. Those involved in economics generally needed additional training because of the research aspects of studying in economics. That meant then, as probably is the case now, that you needed to complete a Ph.D. program in Economics. No two ways about it. And a Ph.D. generally leads to a career in academia. I was headed towards investment banking (still), and the decision to major in Economics did little to get me on track. But I didn’t know it.

So I was completely off base at the start. But it was all the same to me because I really didn’t know any better. Being young, I had no idea what I was doing and took the first step in mismanaging my career.

This seemingly minor decision created two issues that I would have to deal with in the future:

  1. A flawed decision-making process;
  2. An undergraduate degree that would not support my career aspirations.
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