12 Things I should have done more of:
Well Good Morning there guys…!!
It’s funny, when writing “Good Morning” I always say it to myself as if I’m Robin Williams in the great movie ‘Gooooood Morning Vietnam’. Bless his soul, what an amazing person.
I’m so glad and surprised that Part 1 resonated with so many of you, a huge thanks to everyone who read that post! Muchas Gracias. One thing that it confirms, is that there are so many of us who are in the same boat, thinking and wanting the same things and yet we don’t necessarily openly talk or write about them.
The lesson for me is to share your story, always be 100% honest and even though you may think your voice is a little one, there will be other people out there who can connect with what you are saying. Even though each of us is unique in our own right, the high level themes of fear, progression, risk taking, enjoyment and searching, are relevant to so many of us. Get yourself a cup of coffee or two, I have added a few more points to this post that evolved while I was sprinkling my thoughts down on paper.
I’m feeling nice and sprightly this morning, our mornings in the UK are getting lighter earlier and the evenings a little longer too. Even though it snowed last weekend and was freeeeezing, you can feel that spring is in the air, that energy levels are lifting and people are getting excited for the change in season. Being from South Africa, I long for the sunshine and warmth. When it’s in your bones, it’s in your bones!!
Working for a bank and in the City of London was and is a great opportunity for anyone. There are many threads to this and you can argue both ways, but for the majority of the time it is an interesting and dynamic place to work. These are my thoughts and while they are relative to my experience in Investment Banking, I’m assuming the themes and concepts do spread themselves across most industries and organisations.
Maybe you feel that what you are doing now may seem superficial, not contributing to society much or not be your final destination. Whatever the case, it’s important to use your time wisely, make the most of it and dare I say — Use your employer/company to your advantage more…
Towards the end of my career, I was comfortable and going with the flow. I was also probably edging on the side of being disinterested, disgruntled and also stuck in a rut. This has nothing to do with pointing fingers or feeling sorry for myself, because at the end of the day were are all masters of our own destiny.
These are just my thoughts and I’m cautious of trying to dish out advice…..but I guess in a way it is advice, so pick and choose what works for you 🙂
My list of 12 things:
I feel that I was always conscious and made a big effort of the below points, but looking back I realise there is always space for more good things in your life. Be smart about your time in the office, I encourage you to be more proactive and do more of the below. It will help you feel more fulfilled and even if you are not enjoying your job, it may just be the distraction you need or help make going into the office that little more bearable.
1- Be grateful — you have a job. It is a wonderful luxury and opportunity. Please remember that. Treasure it now because it may not be the case forever.
2 – Networking — Everyday you are surrounded by so many people. Each interaction you have is an opportunity to learn and grow. Every person who you meet and work with has something which you can learn from. Some realisations you will be like, “Aha, I should be doing that too!” and others will be, “Alrighty, I should never do or behave like that person!”.
You often hear people say, that you must surround yourself with others who are going to help you grow and push you to be better. I do agree 100% with that, but I also think it’s important to have people in your network who are going to remind you, what not to be like. Don’t let them bring you down, just be conscious of how they act and why not to be like them.
Go to as many of the social events as you can, go to all the talks and presentations they put on and stay for the treats they offer afterwards. Join the internal online group chats, especially for things which interest you like the gym group or the ballerina group. You’ll be surprised by joining these networks, how it will help you personally and also make your time at work more enjoyable. Remember that you spend most of your time in the office, so you need to create an environment which you can look forward to being in.
3 – Asked for more mentors — I only actively did this once and the other time I was allocated one as part of a development program I was on. Indirectly I had some great mentors because they were my managers, but I should have asked more individuals to mentor and guide me. Having an independent and neutral view, can and will guide you through tough times and help you make wiser decisions. Sometimes you just need a sounding board from someone who understands your organisation, the culture, the ethics and the working environment. Allow them to offer their impartial advice and support.
4 – Use your lunch break — please don’t eat your lunch at your desk while surfing the internet, more than twice a week! I understand that sometimes you may just want to use that time to organise your life or catch up on news. I totally get it and did a lot of it myself but……you are entitled to leave the office 🙂
Taking that break and getting out of the work environment is so good for your soul, for your mind and for your energy. Hit the gym to get some of those endorphins flowing, then have a nice shower and feel refreshed and revved up to hit the rest of your day. Go for a walk, look up at the buildings and see things you haven’t before. Go sit in the park and enjoy some fresh air and sun. I personally loved putting on a Podcast and wandering through the streets, while listening to inspiring and motivating stories.
5 – Treat everyone the same — In life there is no hierarchy besides the perceived one we have created. It is a philosophical rabbit hole which I won’t go down here, but remember that we are all humans who breathe the same air and walk on our two feet. Of course, be wise about how you interact with people, but don’t let yourself down as a human and treat some people badly and then suck up to others.
What I mostly mean here is, treat the people in the canteen, the security guards and the cleaners the exact same or even better (LOL — contracting myself!) than the trader or manager which you think will benefit your career.
It certainly stood me in good stead and I am still friends with these people today.
Michael, who used to clean our bathrooms was/is an amazing man. He is a distinguished gentleman from Africa, who has kids he is putting through University. He also played music for a band and often invited me to gigs. The best thing was when I returned for my last stint at the last Bank I worked for, I hadn’t seen Michael for 5 years, when I saw him it was like long last brothers giving each other big hugs and just smiling and being thankful for this fantastic bond we had formed. The added benefit to me was I got to use the toilets when he was cleaning, haha and I felt the benefit for him was that he enjoyed the fact that somebody had shown an interest in him.
Erol, the security guard who was also a personal trainer. We’d swap stories of training routines, we’d eat our lunches together sometimes and share ideas on diets and nutrition. He was/is a machine, who I learnt a lot from. A real gentle and kind man, who I am still friends with and admire today. I often got let through security without a pass because of that friendship.
The ladies and gents in the canteen. By purely being friendly to them, saying please and thank you and asking how their days were going, would just bring a smile to their face. It also meant that I was lucky to often get double portions for the same price!
Never under estimate the relationships you can develop by just being friendly and treating people respectfully.
6 – Attend more courses — banks and other corporates have extensive budgets when it comes to staff self-development. The sad and concerning part is that most of those budgets never get used up. Most courses you attend will not be amazing for their entirety, but there are always 1 or 2 great nuggets of info which you will learn. Sometimes they may just be refreshers, but we all need reminders in life too.
Once again, you’ll network with other people in your organisation and learn about other departments. You never know when or how those relationships may help you in the future.
Many of the courses teach great soft skills which are completely transferable — People Skills, Time Management, Interview Techniques, Effective Communication, Dealing with Staff.
Don’t underestimate the importance of these for your future and also in your day to day life.
7 – Use your location and vicinity — be aware that a lot goes on in a city and it’s where most things happen. Go to events after work, find something interesting to do at lunch, go on walking tours, enjoy being around people and take in the vibe and excitement a city has to offer.
8 – Make more use of downtime — there is no doubt about it that there was a lot of down time when I was working. Especially when working on projects there are peaks and troughs in the work load. My first port of call was most of the time to offer my colleagues help with anything, because at the end of the day it does come down to team work. There were certainly many occasions when they were quiet too or I just didn’t ask and wasted time surfing the net, when I could have been doing something more constructive.
There were actually a lot of online courses that were offered internally too, I now realise I should have done more of them. If not that, then I could have done more planning and researching for my life after banking. It’s a tug-of-war though, because you feel bad doing it on work time while getting paid, but then at the same time when your mind is elsewhere you justify that it is an ok thing to do.
9 – Take a genuine interest in more of your colleagues — make a big effort to get to know them. Find out about their family, their past, their dreams and hobbies. You’ll often find that you have a lot in common, this will lean towards friendship and a better working relationship.
10 – Be more creative in your thinking — Banking is primarily analytically based, but there are a lot of systems and process which provide the opportunity for you to use your creative mind and thinking. Challenging other people’s and your own left side brain thinking, is something which I should have done more. It involves being less concerned of what people think and how they may respond.
There are a million different ways of doing things. Remove the fear and explain your thoughts. I do feel that in the hectic banking environment you were often not given the time to be more exploratory. Finding the best way to do things does often needs more time and a safe environment for an open dialogue.
Suggest alternate proposals, no matter how left field they may seem. I should have spoken up even more and not just featured as part of the cog in the wheel. Step out of line and challenge the protocol.
11 – Flexible working — ask to work 4 days a week, take the hit on your salary. You will be able to cope if you minimise elsewhere in your life. Use that day wisely to work on something else you are interested in. Be it that passion of yours which is going to make you grow as a person, or that one thing you dream of and think about everyday. Spend time on those things to help you possibly create some more freedom in your life.
Most industries are going to shrink when it comes to the work force, trust me when they say that “The Robots are Coming”. Even if someone is a hotshot lawyer or something similar, those jobs will become obsolete within our generation. It sounds crazy and you may be rolling your eyes and saying “Whatevs” but there is a ton of research out there already. I don’t reckon we have any idea how drastically different things will be in say 15 years time. Be prepared, it’s in your hands. You may think those years studying as a drama student were wasted, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that.
Ask to take a Sabbatical — most companies offer these after a certain amount of years. It will be one of the best things you ever do. Travel or learn something new. You have one chance at life, the clock is ticking. It sounds harsh, but is true. Do stuff you love and have no regrets. Ever.
12 – Save more money — minimise your expenses, make your lunch, make your own tea and coffee, don’t buy too much junk just because you have a stream of money coming in each month. Spend your cash on experiences. Be tight on physical purchases. It’s easy to get caught up in the frivolous ways of those around you, especially in banking because people earn a bit more than other industries.
That nice new car you want to buy, is one years travel in South America….
Sometimes when writing, the words come easily like a knife through butter. Other times, it’s like backwash in the sea. This article today is missing the knife and butter but my new way of thinking is to get information out there and not procrastinate for another week before sending!!
If you made it this far, then thank you muchly. Wishing you all amazing weekends and if you have any questions or comments, then I’d love to hear from you.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch 🙂