Career advice: three key practices to progress your career

7 January 2021 - Forging a career path in the institutional investment sector has the obvious hurdles – degrees, further qualifications, job interviews and ongoing deliverables – but there are less obvious challenges facing those starting out their career; for example, how to make yourself indispensable within your team and win guidance from senior colleagues.

I was recently asked by the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA) to provide three key practices that those starting out should keep in mind if they want to get ahead, which have stood me in good stead as I progress my own career. These include:

1. Find ways to add value:  

Personally, I gained invaluable knowledge through active listening and extensive note taking. Try to join meetings where you are not the expert in the room, but the topic is related to your interests. Listen and take notes. Research elements you don’t understand after-the-fact. Having the opportunity to absorb the knowledge and cadences of senior staff is an invaluable tutorial on how to portray yourself in future. Furthermore, detailed note taking will naturally produce a list of follow-up items that you can present to your seniors. This will save their time and build your reliability in their eyes. Over time, as you become more knowledgeable on the topics discussed, you’ll be better equipped to vocalize your views and perhaps even handle an element of a project yourself.

Absorb the knowledge of senior staff whenever you can, step in when needed to provide value and you are on the way to progressing upward. It’s important to remember that you need to be doing more than your current job to get a promotion, but part of the role you are seeking as well: you need to show that you can do that role first before stepping up. Listening and learning from those ahead of you on your career path is the best way to accomplish this.

2. Invest in professional relationships:

Finding a mentor is not easy but, once you do, it is important to be upfront about what you want to learn – to save time all round. Your mentor will likely be strapped for time, so ensure there is a structure to meetings and that you clearly define what you want to learn – with personal goals attached. This ensures every minute of your one-to-one sessions count. This is also a great way to build a personal relationship with someone who may be able to help you further down the line.

However, do not just focus on building rapport with senior management: your peers will be an invaluable support to you as you progress – as you will be to them. Cultivating a rich and diverse network of peers will help to connect disparate ideas freely and expand your own thinking. Peers can broaden your perspectives too and fostering relationships with them should not be overlooked.

3. Broaden your skills:

While focusing on your personal skills and growth in the office, do not forget there are other ways to expand your skillset. Find and participate in organizations that bring likeminded people together and focus on areas you wish to refine, such as public speaking. Seeking one-on-one consultation, such as on speech therapy, is another alternative.

On the subject of life outside work, use your free time to recharge and recoup, whether it is diving into adventure fiction or taking a run with your dog. It is important to broaden your mind, but also to rest it, which leads to greater productivity and energy levels all week.

Wendy Kang was recently appointed to the AIMA Canada Executive Board for the 2020-2022 term, having served on the AIMA Canada Programming and Events Committee for over four years, spending the last two years as Co-Chair.