Year end is a perfect time to reflect on your career.
Whether you are an individual contributor or in executive leadership, everyone struggles a bit to keep up with or stay ahead of the changes in the investment industry. One key takeaway from the hundreds of interviews we conducted this year is that some are happily evolving as the industry changes, while others are not enjoying themselves as much as they did.
My recommendation, for your “professional health,” is to make the time at year end to reflect on the work you are doing, who you are doing it for, and who you are working with. Then assess your satisfaction.
In our interview assessments, we walk candidates through a series of questions many haven’t thought about in years. I wanted to share some basic but important questions for your consideration. Hopefully, you’ll create a better foundation from which to make future career decisions.
#1: Passion – What Do You Really Love About What You Do?
Your answer is exceptionally telling. Do you enjoy working directly with clients to solve their critical challenges? Do you enjoy working with a particular client segment? Do you enjoy building new businesses from scratch? Do you enjoy training and developing others? Are you the most energized in strategic roles or more tactical roles?
Take a moment to gauge your current passion for what you are doing. If it’s not high, consider the changes you need to make. Life is too short to spend time somewhere or doing something that doesn’t make you happy.
#2: Create Your Ideal Position Description.
This is a great exercise to step back from what you know and what you do each day. Consider the world from just your lens. Compare and contrast your existing role and firm to your ideal role and firm. Be sure to consider the responsibilities you enjoy most, the challenges you’d like to take on, and any new products or services you’d like to learn or represent in the market.
The investment industry is rapidly changing, which means people’s roles and firms are often in flux. Perhaps your responsibilities have increased, while others have been laid off. Although it’s good to be employed, if your workload is so great that other areas of your life are suffering, then something needs to change. Perhaps you don’t have a voice at the strategic table or it is being stifled. Or perhaps your firm isn’t innovating as quickly as other firms which is affecting your energy to champion your products or services. Considering the world from your ideal lens means asking tough questions of yourself, as well as reflecting on whether your company, its vision, and its trajectory are meeting your needs.
#3: Performance Matters. Be Aware of Your Own Bar And Pivot Your Career Accordingly.
It’s important that you have your own standards and are cognizant of where you are performing against your own bar. Since firms can, at times, set unrealistic expectations, it’s critical to have your personal benchmark to regularly reflect on your performance.
A good question to ask is how your performance measures up to those in a similar role. Are you differentiating yourself in any way? If so, how? If you don’t know or don’t care how you differentiate yourself from your colleagues, then you may be in jeopardy when layoffs occur. If you are underperforming, which happens to everyone at some time or another, then think through if there is a developmental opportunity you can identify to support your success. Don’t wait for someone to point out your failings. If you are exceeding against your own bar or your peers’, is there more you can do with your capabilities? Can you help others on your team achieve at a higher level? Would you like to be considered for a stretch assignment at your firm? Speak up! In preparation of stepping up, make the time to consider who you can train and pull up behind you to take your place.
Being self-aware is critical in this exercise. Identify your own performance benchmarks and where you measure on the scale. If you think you are exceeding your own expectations, congratulations! Now you can think more deeply about how you can be challenged further. If you have had a difficult year and aren’t quite where you’d like to be, consider what resources you need to achieve excellence again.
Assessing your professional health is always a worthwhile endeavor, whether it is the end of the year or any time in between. If you feel like you have room to do more, commit to what “more” looks like and how to get there. If you’d like to do better, what are steps you can take toward improvement? If you’d like to do less, consider another role or firm that gives you that latitude.
Unemployment is at an all-time low. Great people are in short supply. Don’t settle for being less than happy. Pivot onto a better track.