Monday, September 16, 2019

Sage Career Advice

One of my favorite college professors was a retired investment banker. He had spent his career as an ex-pat throughout Asia and built up an 8 figure net worth before 'retiring' (to be a part-time professor) at 50. I looked up to him and occasionally went to him for career advice even after I was not taking classes from him.

While I was in my last year of college, I accepted a job to work as a financial advisor at an insurance company. My short time at that company is worthy of a separate discussion, but something from the experience has stuck with me over the years.

After I accepted the position, I went to meet with this professor to tell him the good news. He congratulated me and then had just a few questions about the job. The one that stuck with me was:
"What is the average age and tenure of the people in your office?"
Although he didn't say it, looking back I can tell that he would have steered me clear of this job had I asked him about it first. He knew several things that I didn't know at the time. First, insurance companies churn through new hires. Most people who join these companies quickly flame out once they exhaust their lists of friends and family to sell crappy annuities or high commission mutual funds to. In this regard, I also became a statistic, only lasting about 3 months before taking my licenses to a discount broker.

Second, companies need new employees to be able to continue growing. When I was hired, I was one of the only 'new' people at the office and I rarely saw people with less than a couple of years. If I was paying attention, this should have been a red flag. Naive little me was probably only thinking how cool it was to be in a grown-up job in a grown-up office (I even could order business cards if I wanted to pay for them!). What I should have asked myself was "Why weren't any of my classmates considering working here or somewhere similar?" or "How many people has my cubicle neighbor seen come and go in his 2 years here?"

My current employer hires thousands of new people each year and still has several people with 30+ years at the company. I just hit 6 years and 75% of the people hired with me into our department are still with the company.  I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon, but rest assured when that time comes, I'll have a lot of questions about the company, culture, and employee demographics before joining another company.

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