Keep control over your career rather than allowing yourself to be railroaded by events or other people’s opinions and perceptions. Too often, we simply react to opportunities that happen to come our way. Being clear about what you want is the first step to making sure you achieve it. Once you know what you are trying to achieve, stay focused. Developing a set of criteria by which to make your own decisions will help keep you on track and avoid potential stumbling blocks.
Develop and trust your intuition. This can be challenging for high-level financial services professionals, who naturally tend towards facts, figures and other hard factors, but soft factors are equally important. Start with your intuition and then make sure it is backed by a strong business case.
Understand the power of “no”. Many of us find this one of the most difficult things to say, but it is actually one of the most powerful words in business and often much more effective than “yes”, particularly when backed by a sound argument.
Understand and be true to yourself. At the risk of sounding like a personal development coach, far too few people in the financial services sector embrace self-awareness despite the benefits it brings. Everything you do must be congruent with who you are; incongruity increases stress, hampers performance and simply cannot last.
Make time to stop and think. Evaluate where you are, what you like and what you do not. Ask yourself whether you are doing the right job in the right environment; whether that be country, company or culture. If you are not totally happy with the way things are, make changes.
Do not let your job define you. Too many people allow themselves to become trapped in careers they no longer enjoy. If you do not like what you do, have the courage to be true to yourself and walk away; allowing a job to define your life risks years of compromise and missed opportunity. There are always other options.
Acting in isolation is not always productive. It can be incredibly helpful to have a mentor or career buddy to test ideas or run through different scenarios with. This is not always about goal setting, but rather about having someone you trust, who wishes you well, who will wave the red flag when things are amiss and will give you an honest, but not brutal, sanity check from time to time.