One of the reasons I was unavailable to write a lot more- busy being a nerd at this lovely lavender garden at Shikisai No Oka 😉
It’s official- I am so bad at this. I am such a bad blogger (still doesn’t give a nice ring by the way), leaving my self proclaimed baby to dust for the past nine months. Also, throughout my second last post (i.e the one about me rambling about not wanting to get married) I discovered one thing: Malaysians just love to talk about marriages all the time. It’s pretty amusing to be honest.
This is no excuse but if I have to be truly honest, work has been taking a toll on my schedule, and as much as I hate turning my work into my entire life, I was that person for quite some time.
During my job search, to be quite fair, I literally did not have a clue on what I wanted to do. However, I knew what I didn’t wanna do. Now, a naivete like myself would think “hey that makes things easier for you right? You just strike those that you don’t want, and choose from a pool of possibly okay jobs!”
In fact, I dare say not knowing what to do for the next five to ten years is one of the worst career advice I’d ever give anyone. Imagine settling for a job thinking that you’d eventually like it, and then realising that you in fact, don’t enjoy your job, which would honestly add up to your pool of bad choices.
Anyway, during my job search, I only had one determining factor that made me choose my place of work till today. I knew I wanted to be in the financial services industry. Something about financial services amuses and interests me, even though my exposure to it is little to none. To be more specific, I was more interested in investment banking or rather institutional banking- the idea of dealing with huge clients and corporations seemed like a very prestigious and glamorous picture at one point.
That reason, coupled with me not knowing what to do, lead me to applying for a management trainee program. It was one of the easiest ways to enter an investment bank as a fresh graduate (
if you don’t consider insider connections as a way to get in as well oops). From an outsider’s point of view, management trainee programs seem very appealing. I won’t blame them to be quite honest- rotating within the company, trying to see if a job setting suits you, coupled with networking sessions with senior management because you are the cream of the crop does seem very, very appealing. However, people leave out the dirty details: nobody tells you that you might be unlucky enough to land into terrible rotations. Nobody tells you that you’ll be getting an intern’s job for the next 3 months to possibly a year (because the truth is, you’re a management trainee– italicised and bolded to create emphasis in case you’re not aware). Nobody tells you that you might not even find what you like- what are the odds you might not have a rotation that you truly like at the end of your tenure? (Seems highly unlikely, but believe me. I’ve got a friend or two that ended up feeling this way).
So I started work in October 2016 in a financial services company- an investment bank to be honest. Initially, I was intrigued with corporate finance: I was interested in mergers and acquisitions based on the very little exposure I got when I did my P4 paper in my ACCA module. I was also and still am interested in project financing as well. Being the naivete I was a year back, I told myself multiple times that this is for me. Corporate finance is for me. Investment banking is for me. During my official training sessions, even the investment banking module seems much easier for me than the treasury module or the credit module at that time. It seemed more straight forward- A merges with B to form AB and the rest is history.
Now here’s life lesson #1: Your job will be an entirely different experience than your classrooms back in university.
Unfortunately, it took me about six months down the road to realise that corporate finance and investment banking is truly not what I’m meant to do after all. Throughout my rotations, I realised that I cannot commit to extremely long hours at work, I cannot spend the rest of my days doing documentation and regulatory work, and I cannot sit in front of the computer trying to ensure that every document and paper sent to regulators are in the right order, alignment, spelling and detail. I do not have the patience for this. And this is exactly what corporate finance is all about, at least in your early years.
Here’s the thing: in university, the subject at hand, theories, concepts and ideologies will always be interesting. My lecturer did not tell me behind every acquisition are late nights, stained coffee cups and days without sunlight. He didn’t tell me how lengthy and tedious financial models can get, or how an analyst has to get down and dirty into the nitty gritty things when it comes to valuation. Truthfully, he didn’t even need to disclose that in class back then. It was up to me to find that out on my own- and unfortunately for me, I didn’t know that until I started working.
Now, I always believe I am coupled with a rather strong ego. Growing up, I’ve been a believer of finishing what I started, which honestly motivated me to finish my professional papers. Now, I started to get a feeling that corporate finance truly wasn’t for me much earlier than my sixth month as a trainee- in fact, it was right after my training sessions and during my first rotation. But then, I remembered the mantra I had during my first day of work, and that literally was the only reason why I still wanted to be in investment banking. At that time or any given situation, really, nothing is worse than wanting that one thing that is truly not meant for you. To me, if I’m not meant for investment banking, then there’s nothing else that I like or want to do. At that point, it felt like a waste. Why did I come here to find out that that one job I wanted is not meant for me?
See, life lesson #2: It’s okay to let go.
Considering my academic background and what I’m actually good at, I was talked into considering other options- and one of it was credit analysis. Sure, it doesn’t seem like the most glamorous banking job out there, and it requires a lot of writing and analysing numbers, but at that point, I was willing to give it a try. I stepped up, admitted my stubbornness and opted for a change. I chose to give credit a try, and what do you know? It was my best rotation out of all that I’ve gone through. Turns out I wasn’t too bad at it- at least decent enough for the boss to consider taking me in. I understand what I was doing the whole time, and I enjoy the luxury of giving opinions and managing stakeholders, despite them being internal staff rather than clients.
It’s truly okay if you cannot do what you intended to do in the first place. It’s definitely okay if your circumstances change, and you decided that this is not meant for you. True, your mistakes and mishaps can sometime cost you a bit of time, money, energy or patience. But if you ask me, I’d rather bear that cost and be truly fine with it, rather than swallow all the resentment, hate or dissatisfaction I have over my job and bear with it until I burst into flames. And besides, if you’re like me and you don’t like what you’re doing, chances are you might not be great at it, and you wouldn’t want to deal with that- at least not in the first few years of your career.
To be frank, I love my money. I love looking at the balances of my bank account on paycheck day as much as I love spending them on myself. Another factor that made me choose to work where I’m at was also because of the money. Well, I will be underpaid for the first year of my job, but the payoff would be worth it- or so I thought.
Next, life lesson #3: It’s not always about the money.
I used to imagine myself as an investment banker, earning big bucks in my well pressed suit, living in a high end condominium with a trendy continental car. Of course, that would be the dream for me and a lot of other people, and who’s to say that it’s impossible to achieve? I’ve said this once and I shall say this again: having a realistic and reasonable view on your dreams is always a good thing to do. Now that I’m finally thinking straight for myself, I kept asking myself these questions- am I willing to let go of my physical and mental health for the money? Am I willing to let go of the ties I have with the rest of my family and friends? Am I willing to miss out on every birthday party, wedding reception and baby shower that I will be invited to? Am I willing to give up my sleep and rest? Am I willing to earn all that money but not have any time to spend it?
I realise that over and over again, the answer is no. And I am fine with it.
Now, here’s the thing about the corporate world, which I eventually came to learn about,
Life Lesson #4: Not everyone is your friend.
For many times, I never would have thought that the person or people that were supposed to nurture, advocate and invest in me would be the first to turn against me. I was naive, treating them in the nicest ways possible, in hopes that they will treat me the same way in return. Aha, was I terribly wrong.
They have tried to undermine me, making it seem like I didn’t belong. They nitpicked every little flaw I have and magnified it to make it seem like that was the only thing that mattered to them about me. They have certainly badmouthed me behind my back, telling others that I am ‘not good enough’ or I ‘don’t deserve a second chance’ to redeem myself from the mistake that I never knew I did. They did all this, with a wide smile in their faces whenever they have to face me.
I guess, if God wants to reveal someone’s true intentions to you, He will do it, regardless of the ways it’s been revealed. I could still remember the anger I had when I heard of the things that was inflicted upon me without me knowing. I was seething, in so much pent up anger that I had to walk it out before taking the train back home. Then came the sense of betrayal. And then it was regret- why did I choose this program when I had better options back then? But that was how I learned that particular life lesson.
In the corporate world, it seemed to me like every nice gesture is a calculated move. Every greeting in the header of every email is just a polite gesture, a common business practice. Every team lunch or invitation to dinner is just a nicety- or worse, a valid reason to eat out at someplace nice. Everything was fabricated or carried out in hopes to get a favour done- “hey remember to be nice to this lady, because she’s going to help us get that deal approved,” was something I’ve heard coming out of a Head of Department’s mouth during one of my rotations. Back then, I thought he was nothing but a superficial rich man. Now, I can’t even separate the genuine ones from the pool of superficiality that I have the pleasure to deal with day by day.
Now, there’s not to say that there are absolutely no nice people at work- besides the nasty ones, I am also surrounded by really nice folks who truly want the best for you. Throughout my one year in this company, I found several good friends whom has made my days better countless of times. They reminded me that a job is just a job, and the sucky parts of it should not drain my whole life out of me. There were the hour long gossip sessions during lunch, window shopping during the fasting month, ridiculous Whatsapp groups like Lunchtime Shopping and Stalker and Friends (p.s. guess who’s the stalker), and a good shoulder to cry on or a listening ear whenever I needed them.
When I first started work, I wasn’t quite sure if I would be able to make any friends at all. It was a bit scary, entering a new workplace without knowing anyone from school or university. I kept telling myself that this is one stop closer to adulthood, and it shouldn’t bother me that I might not have any friends at all, but it still remained to be a tiny insecurity of mine. Turns out I was just being ridiculous and nonsensical because: a) according to my friends I am always the one to make friends first, and b) the first bunch of people I first met at work are one of the most genuine ones around that it was impossible not to befriend at least one of them.
Hence, Life Lesson #5: Hold on to your true friends at work.
Once upon a time, my continuity for a job at my current workplace was possibly threatened. There was the scare that I might not be able to be there anymore, and don’t get me wrong- there were a lot of bumps getting to where I’m at now, but I do love the place I’m working at. At that point in time, it felt like my world was about to end. What am I going to do if I lose this? What kind of jobs should I take? Who would want to hire me? What if I can’t find a job out there?
It was a thousand of what-ifs, and a very overwhelming uncertainty that was certainly unhealthy for me. At that point, it seemed like my whole life is indeed my job, and I do not know how to function without it. I had no survival skills, I was too dependent and desperate for this job, and I let it define me. As a result, I became constantly worried, paranoid and consumed with what I could’ve done better, what should’ve been done, what I did wrong.
I think my turning point was definitely during my sixth month in, when I finally admitted defeat to my ego- I decided that I’ve done my best and I’ve given my best. I was tired of worrying, and I chose to have a little bit of faith, and let things run its course. Naturally, my job mattered less to me- it’s still of great importance to me, but should I be stripped away from it, I reckoned I’d live. It would be a huge blow to myself, especially with all that time, energy and emotions wasted, but I would’ve been able to look past it and move on.
This, to me was the most valuable lesson throughout my one year of working.
Life Lesson #6: A job is what it is: just a job.
My boss taught me something very important- which is to separate my work from my personal life. She taught me to establish solid boundaries, and make sure that they are not crossed by any means. It’s an acquired skill, leaving all work matters in the office, and going back home with a clear mind. However, after what I did to myself, I find that it is a dire need to acquire that skill, for the betterment of my physical and mental health.
Now, my one year anniversary of working is coming exactly in a week, and this post is meant to celebrate all the smiles, laughter and tears that were spent throughout this time. Regardless, I’ve never been prouder of myself for finishing this working year on a bittersweet note.
Here’s to more opportunities, life lessons and moments of self reflection! (and hopefully blog posts too cause I apparently prefer sleeping in during weekends rather than being productive and writing something up for this empty space.)