Yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before.... 97 ways to be a rockstar analyst. 233 things I wish I knew as an associate...
There are plenty of good ideas for making it through the day but I'm betting you want to know what I wanted to know when I began transforming my career at Goldman Sachs some fifteen years ago-- How do you create the most amazing career and life you can imagine?
Back in 2000 when I began asking that question, I thought I had it figured out. Getting from my working class background to the only job offered at Goldman Sachs Australia, and then getting promoted early to associate and landing a plum transfer to Goldman's Silicon Valley office in '99, success seemed straightforward--put your head down and work hard.
But when the Internet bubble burst and half my colleagues were laid-off, I began to think differently. With compensation slashed in half and my career stalled in its tracks, I began asking, is this the career I want? Looking ahead to my bosses, I wondered, do I want their career? Their life? What do I want?
I didn't know. So over the next decade I read thousands of books and wrote thousands of pages of ideas figuring it out. Putting these ideas to work I transformed my own career, making two moves inside Goldman before moving to the Carlyle Group, and then leaving Wall Street to follow my obsession and share these ideas...
The first thing to know is that while working hard is a necessity, you won't win that way. Instead you want a sophisticated approach that gets your career working hard for you. This I call the System for Doing What You Want:
STEP 1. DEFINE IT
To get what you want, first, you must know what you want. Makes sense, right? Fortunately it's wrong!
For nearly ten years I drove myself nuts asking the question, What Do I Want? I believed that if only I could figure out what I wanted, I could get it. But, the truth is, if you don't know what you want, repeatedly asking the question won't solve it!
Instead, it was only in hindsight I could see that even though I didn't know what I wanted, by continuing to execute on the step right in front of me, I kept moving forward and figuring it out over time. That led me to develop a simple yet BULLETPROOF two-step approach for setting goals:
1. You begin at a high level with your grandest vision for your career. This might be vague as it was for me--to do what I love every day--or it might be more specific like seeing yourself as CEO or running your own firm. This is the guiding vision that you use to direct your career over many years.
2. Day-to-day you forget about your grand vision and simply focus on the goal that is right in front of you.
For instance, say you are an associate dreaming of one day starting your own firm. That's a great vision that might play out over decades, and all that matters right now is that you are executing in your current job and creating the options that keep you moving in the right direction.
Then, if you are looking at making a move, you set up for yourself what I call a dual-track roadmap which enables you to focus on both moving forward in your current career while exploring your options...
That's the mechanics, but here's what really counts to Define It--Commitment. To go for what you truly want, you must be absolutely committed, and be willing to keep taking action.
STEP 2. GETTING IT
Now that you are committed to the goal that is right in front of you, get smart, in fact, get smarter than smart, on what it takes to succeed. This I call Getting It.
All the time you hear: He just gets it or she doesn't get it. But what does it actually mean to be getting it?
By my definition, it is knowing with absolute certainty what it takes to win in your career.
Consider, you might spend months analyzing a company and an industry. Building a model line-by-line, you seek to know what truly matters to the company's success. Now, imagine applying that approach to your own career, going deep into modeling what it takes to win.
To do that, look around for role models. Carefully analyze what they do, and ask yourself, how can you do it too? And look deep into your job. Figure out in detail, what does it really take to succeed?
For instance, if you are in sales, what does it take to be exceptional at selling? If you're a banker, ask what does it take to truly excel at the job? Even as an analyst, knowing a key to your success is getting better and faster in Excel, you might simply ask, what more can you do to, well, excel?
Thomas Edison said, "Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration." That's Getting It.
STEP 3. PLAN IT
Once you are focused on your goals and you know what it takes to get it, you want a plan.
Makes sense, right? But, how many people do you know who have a plan for their career? Not just a to do list of things they need to get done in the next week or two, but an action plan as to how they are going to get what they want this year, next year, over the next five years, and over the long-run?
How many people do you know who have that? Can you imagine talking to the CEO of a company and hearing that they have no strategic plan for the business?
Now, the key to Plan It is to plan in as little detail as possible. Simply focus on that one goal that is right in front of you and plan only as much as you need to keep executing. That might be a couple of boxes on a page. It might be a punch list or a more detailed spreadsheet. Either way, lay out a plan that gives you the steps to get what you want.
STEP 4. EXECUTE IT
Most people on Wall Street are excellent at executing and getting things done. The problem for many people, however, is that they are not executing on the things that truly matter to getting what they want.
That's where the plan comes in. You want to be militant about how you are using your time and stay focused on the tasks that drive your success.
And rather than setting up a definitive plan before executing, you want to be planning and executing iteratively over time. Hence you are constantly taking action and coming back to your plan to keep moving towards what you want.
And there's another wrinkle here. You must be willing to execute on those things that you are avoiding. Yes, I know you have some of those things. The things you consider risky, hard, or uncomfortable. Those things that scare you are the things that are most likely to drive getting what you want...
STEP 5. GETTING SKILLS
To get more of what you want, get better.
Every day a top athlete trains their skills because they know that the best athlete typically wins. The same is true in your career. Develop skills. Learn more. Master your craft. And you are more likely to win.
This requires stepping back and figuring out what skills enable you to excel in your career? If you're a trader, wouldn't you get better results if you mastered the skills of emotional mastery? If you're in banking, wouldn't mastering the skills of influence help you on every deal and in every meeting?
These are skills that many people consider you either have or you don't have, yet with a small amount of effort you can begin to learn any skills.
While that might seem like a lot to add to an already busy day, by reading just one book on each of the four skills I call the Power Tools you can go a long way: 1. Time management: Read Eat That Frog. 2. Communications and influence: Read How To Win Friends and Influence People. 3. Selling: Read How to Master the Art of Selling. 4. Mindset: Read Think and Grow Rich.
Or, if that seems like a lot to read, check out the only book you'll ever need for doing what you want on Wall Street where I cover all these topics in detail...
Geoff Blades is the author of Do What You Want on Wall Street. A former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and investor at the Carlyle Group, Geoff Blades is an advisor to senior Wall Street executives, CEOs, and other leaders on strategic matters as well as topics of personal and professional development.