Back in the early days of the millennium, shortly after the internet bubble burst and before 9/11, I took a job at a French investment bank. I worked the night shift as a project assistant for Lazard Frères at their New York City location in Rockefeller Center, where I supported banking and asset management teams focused on M&A in emerging markets across Asia and Latin America.
Working the swing shift had its benefits. I was compensated for meals and provided with black-car service home to the outer boroughs. And unlike the full-time executive assistants during the day, I was able to dress business casual, a small win for a creative type who at times felt like a fish out of water among the cherry-paneled conference rooms and Bloomberg terminals.
As well as answering the phones for three senior managing directors, my responsibilities included scheduling and coordinating strategy sessions, aggregating market research materials for pitch books, assembling presentations, as well as other administrative tasks like calendaring, reception and ordering food for onsite meetings.
Prior to Lazard, I had only ever worked as a digital media marketer for a major television network. So switching into the financial services sector, even on a temporary basis, was a huge leap for me. Those two years I worked at Lazard proved to be an eye-opening experience, which provided my first real exposure that helped me to understand the effects of globalization in business.
It also provided an opportunity to observe the behaviors of ambitious, successful professionals and how they managed the day-to-day stress of demanding stakeholders. These life lessons have served me well.
Gandhi once said that “The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity.” These are all worthy characteristics to begin to cultivate during your work life. As you journey through your career, you’ll soon acquire other sets of skills and log accomplishments, some of which you didn’t even know you were capable of achieving.
Persistence, adaptability to change, determination, collaborative teamwork, innovative thinking and maybe even coding. These qualities aren’t just buzzwords for your resume; they define who you are as a professional and pave your way to becoming the next best thing. Own them with pride.
Watch your health
Long hours. Stressful work environments. Those realities are no longer limited to banking – just browse online feedback posted by tech companies’ employees to see for yourself. If you are committed to your job and have a strong work ethic, “living at work” may be a part of your career for a while.
In the short term, this is okay as long as you keep yourself in check. There’s a huge difference between challenging yourself to accomplish the impossible and running yourself into the ground. Your health should always be your number-one priority. Know what your limitations are, then adjust as needed.
There are two success metrics at play, the one the company sets for you and the one you set for yourself.
Working in a high-income career affords you the opportunity to live a better life, whether that means paying off school loans, scoring a sweet apartment in Williamsburg or the Lower East Side or visiting travel destinations on your bucket list.
For some, a tenure at an investment bank extends their knowledge and supplements an MBA with real-life experience to fuel a second career – which in many cases eventually leads to a third career. And for a handful of others who stick it out long-term, it’s simply about the love for the work – the adrenaline rush of closing a deal and acquiring new business – that fuels them.
When you can clearly define what drives you to succeed and bring your best self to your work, success will soon follow, no matter whether you stay in investment banking, jump to the buy side or do something completely different.
Andrea Preziotti is the founder/CEO of Modern Vintage Ink, a Brooklyn-based marketing and content strategy firm. A blog ghostwriter, her clients include senior leaders in retail, fashion and executive coaching. She has worked at Conde Nast and AOL.
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