On October 21, 2017, I was fortunate to be one of the ten panelists at the third annual Master of Science in Finance Alumni event organized by the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Washington, D.C. Standing in front of the students brimming with hope and expectation, I was reminded of the time I sat in their place 2 years ago. Special thanks to Professor Kwang Soo Cheong for making this event happen and continuing the tradition. I’d also like to mention the constant support extended by the Career Development Office and the Alumni Relations team in their efforts to nurture and grow Carey students to make them better future business leaders.
While I talked about many things in my address, I’d like to share with the larger Carey community three important lessons that I have learned in my professional life.
- Never Burn Any Bridges
When we are in a classroom setting, we are frequently subject to feedback in the form of grades, remarks from professors, and peer reviews. The criticism that comes our way does not sting because all of us undergo the process together and as a result, we do not feel alienated from the crowd. In the workplace, however, things change drastically. You will often find yourself in situations where you did something wrong or you missed expectations. Learn to handle the feedback in a positive and constructive way. While this is a necessary skill, it is not sufficient to ensure your success. You need to be able to separate your professional performance from your personal relationships at work. I once received a review note from my manager on a Friday night. I was sulking about it the entire weekend, being scared to death and entertaining the most negative thoughts about my future at the company. Come Monday morning, not only was the said manager chatting with me happily about the weekend, he also did not bring up my work at all. We went back to doing our respective work. That day, I realized the importance of professionalism and maintaining my personal relations in the workplace.
- Strive for Excellence
Good is not good enough. In today’s competitive world, you must constantly prove your mettle to the world. If your one and only job in your workplace is to go and greet every person in the office, do it with such panache and dignity, such brilliance and punctuality, such demeanor and perfection, that people rely on only you to do it. People around you should depend on you to do your job the way you do it, and they should depend on the quality of your work to do their work. This is the only guaranteed way to success. To reach the topmost echelons of your organization and the corporate world, there are no shortcuts. You need to earn it, and earn it with excellence.
- Take Initiative
Never say no to anything. There will be situations where you will encounter new opportunities that will help you build a new skill or expand into a different division. Learn to embrace work that comes your way. Wherever possible, volunteer to take charge of new tasks, whether it is developing a template for loss forecasting or conducting research into a potential area the company wishes to expand into. In the early stages of your career, it is not only good but imperative for you to have exposure to different domains. It is also a great way to develop a much sought-after skill in the workplace today: Ability to Learn. When you are willing to learn, you show potential for growth and development. Companies prefer to invest in employees who care for their growth because a company can grow only if its employees grow.