Mod Note: Each day we'll be posting the top WSO forum posts of 2014. This one was originally posted on 2/23/14 and ranks #12 for the year by total silver banana count. You can see all our top ranked content here.
I am Turtle.
11 items to maximize your human and career potential. I get networking requests from fresh graduates so often, that I wish I could just refer them to this list. I graduated from top-tier undergrad and mba programs, top 3 in both, arguably #1 in both. I started my career on sell side and am now a PM on buyside. Mistakes? I've either made them myself or seen them made by people close to me. I have violated each one of these 11 rules at some point.
These notes are intended for those who want to progress in a balanced, sane way and who place equal importance on both the knowledge and people dynamics of the business. These notes are intended for winners who want to win with both substance and form. I am going to give this advice in a frank way that I wouldn't tell any young person face to face, due to the harshness of it. These notes are not intended for pretenders, trust fund babies, or the merely "charismatic". These notes are intended for 1st round draft picks.
0. You are a knowledge worker, not a widget maker.
No correlation exists between hours spent in office and work produced or knowledge gained. No correlation exists between the foot-pages of reading and knowledge gained. Know this in your bones and you will avoid countless mistakes. No matter how brilliant you are, don't make the mistake of thinking you can know or do everything. There are no renaissance men in finance.
1. Read ONLY what's important and use it actively.
Use the 20 second rule. Ask yourself 20 seconds into a reading, "Is this something that will possibly benefit me over the next 3 years of my career?" You will gain years of life this way. Those mid-career losers you see who have been in the business for 10+ years but still don't seem to know anything? They tend to share a love of reading, especially the WSJ. Reading time is a precious resource. It counts only if you can use it actively in practice. Everybody can read. It's easy. Read things that stretch you and engage actively with the material.
2. Keep notes on your reading.
You will be shocked, shocked at how little you retain in your little brain as you progress in your career. Massive data overload, processing complexity, and time constraint means that you will not be able to separate the wheat from chaff without re-processing the important stuff into notes.
3. If you can't get into a top 5 or top 10 MBA program, get the CFA instead.
I prefer CFAs over graduates from mediocre b-schools. CFA takes at least a little bit of effort, and imparts a deeper finance background than available at low-tier schools.
4. If you take the CFA, try to pass on 1st try of each exam.
Use up every single vacation day if necessary. Do not fail. And yes, I will not be impressed if you fail one of the exams. It shows a lack of baseline intellect, intellectual laziness, or improper priority setting. None of these is acceptable. Put your gf on a shelf and go into the man cave. Wall Street doesn't give an 'A' for effort. I know this is harsh. If you want to deal with A players, this is what you're dealing with. So deal with it or be content with being a B player. Nothing wrong with that.
5. Be aware of the company culture before going in.
Have a strategy for how to deal with it. For instance, if you're a working class kid put on a floor with a bunch of WASP country club guys, it's better to subtly acknowledge your background rather than trying to fake it.WASPs like the position of social charity they put themselves in by welcoming you.
6. Network from the other person's perspective.
When asking for an "informational meeting", be aware that even 5 minutes of time is precious to the person you are asking. I do not respond to such requests anymore because of the prevalence of entitled networkers who believe that 15 minutes is too little time. Is 30 minutes for an MD a big sacrifice? It is when you are working full time and have a family. That's 30 minutes you are taking away from me and my family. If someone offers you 15, take it gratefully. That 15 minutes might change your life.
7. Know thyself. Work around your weaknesses.
Procrastinate much? Better find a strategy around that pronto. Do you get flustered when asked a pointed questions on the floor? Learn how to answer in a cool and reasoned manner. You're dealing with money. It's serious business and people assign a trust rating to you based on your demeanor. Understand when you're stressed and destress pronto or compensate for it. Emotionally uneven people are not worthy of money trust.
8. Learn to manage emotions in yourself and others.
Meditate. Learn how to breathe and pay attention to the breathing of yourself and others. Knowing when you're under pressure is the first step to dealing with it intelligently.
9. Stay healthy and sleep enough.
The ancients had it right with their motto "healthy mind in healthy body." The benefits of this will flow through to everything else in this list.
10. Be a good human being.
We all die. Money is an illusion. Nobody wants to deal with assholes, not even assholes. Be tough but fair. Treat others as you would want to be treated
If somebody had told me all these things when I was 22, I might not have been receptive to it all. Maybe you won't either. But it's the list of things I wish someone had told me. I just doubt I would have been humble or intelligent enough to put it into action.
I am Turtle.