Previously I shared my experiences at University. So let’s jump right back in to the next phase of my life post-Uni – getting a job.
Unlike others who are coming out of University and finding it difficult to secure their first job, I didn’t have to wait so long… three months to be exact post-Graduation. I took an internship at an Investment Bank and was offered a role as a permanent employee afterwards. My first couple of interviews for potential job openings hadn’t gone so well, but when I heard about the internship I jumped at the chance.
“Wow, I’m going to be in the corporate world. Better get my act together then and give this my all“, I promised myself. But whilst I went into this job feeling very enthusiastic and positive, by the end I left feeling demotivated and deeply unhappy. Have you seen ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’? All those crazy scenes at Stratton Oakmont with drinking and sex? Well, it’s nothing like that (at least not in the part of the bank I was in!)
When I first took the job my family were ecstatic, and to an extent I was too. However, it’s similar to when you first get into a new relationship without yet fully knowing the person; it feels great at the beginning, but the novelty wears off over time and when you encounter constant arguments or fights you quickly find yourself thinking, “is this right for me? How can I find that next burst of happiness I found at the beginning?”
As the years went on (three and a half of them), I think my family could tell that I had become less and less motivated to get up and do my day job. I felt like I had changed for the worse as a person too; I had become impatient, snappy and quite rude to my friends, family and co-workers, all because I was not content with my day to day life. Yes, it is nice having financial freedom, but when you have so many hopes for the corporate world and find out it’s really just a grand power struggle, those dreams rapidly evaporate.
“Grand power struggle? How do you mean?” some may ask, so here is an insight into my experiences (I need to emphasise however not all places are like this; I can only speak about what I have been through).
There is such a thing as ‘playing the game’ – picking and choosing when to speak up with ideas you feel strongly about or disagree with. Being the person I am, if there was something I didn’t agree with, I’d say outright and not bite my tongue. Maybe others can do so, but similarly if someone needed help or if they made a genuine mistake, I wouldn’t throw them under the bus to make myself look better. A lot of finger pointing would occur in office meeting rooms, and some would feel scared to own up to their mistakes because of how it could reflect on their year-end performance review (stuff like that could really hamper your chances of getting a promotion or pay rise). Another concern I had: ideas or improvements which you may have come up with can and will be ‘borrowed’ (or should I say taken) by your senior managers, who then coin these as their own ideas to their superiors. I saw this happen quite frequently and found it rather unfair and not morally correct. Halting other people’s progress is an abuse of the system and demotivates employees to think innovatively. More often than not we endured longer hours than needed, frequently staying on until past our contracted hours. I didn’t mind doing this had I enjoyed the work or felt there was some appreciation from our colleagues in the department for working beyond our day.
It’s ironic that similarities can be drawn between Gurdwara politics and workplace politics. Those at the top on the committee often complain that the youth are not interested in getting involved, the same way how in my former workplace senior management told the analysts (usually aged 21-27) that we lacked enthusiasm and innovative ideas. Why would we, having endured bad experiences previously? Would you go back to a restaurant again if it gave you food poisoning in the past? Didn’t think so.
I met many Sikhs/Punjabis in this industry, and I’m pleased to say there are many of us in really senior positions. However, I can’t say I liked what I saw amongst most of them in terms of their attitude towards others. I still don’t know why I felt I should expect better from our community in these situations – maybe that’s my upbringing of being surrounded by genuine family and friends that has influenced me. I must add it wasn’t every apna, just a small number who I unfortunately had to interact with regularly. Maybe I shouldn’t hold my own people in a higher regard than others, and this is something I had to learn the hard way.
I’m still unsure if it was their corporate side coming through, but many of the senior Sikh/Punjabi people I met were very rude. A simple thank you or please goes really far when talking to those below you, and I don’t think anyone should consider themselves above showing basic manners. Remembering someone’s name or their background or where they’re from if you’ve spoken before – it goes a long way when trying to forge good, strong working relationships. You’d be surprised how many times I put in extra effort and prioritisation for those who showed manners and respect to my team members and I. I still don’t understand the chip on their shoulder in that sense, having already progressed up the hierarchy, surely they should relate to what those below were experiencing or thinking?
There are some things I am thankful for from this experience in Investment Banking. I learnt a lot about myself; how I act when stressed/tired, who I can rely on when times get tough, what motivates me, and I also met some really great people who I will keep in contact with throughout my life. Slowly, as I noticed this all happening, I began to do the minimum amount needed from me at work. I’d pick up my pay-cheque each month and go home feeling dissatisfied with how my day went. At first I thought it could just be my role that was like this, so decided to change it up. I switched roles 3 times during my three and a half years at the Bank, hoping this would stimulate my curiosity and learning experience. But this didn’t seem to fix the problem. Every new opportunity would ebb and flow like that new relationship feeling, except now each time, it wore off quicker than the last and I knew I had to make a change, but what change? People come and go in any job; I worked in three teams, and by the time I left, more than half of those people had also left. People move on and carry on with their own life journey, and I had to leave in order to figure out mine. I quit my job earlier this year and chose to go travelling for three months, to have a break, consider what I want to do next and really get some perspective on life. I would be lying if I said I didn’t still feel lost after returning from travelling, but I had a few things lined up that I wanted to focus on. Find out what in the next piece!