5 Things I would tell my Younger Self (Or what the Banker would tell the Hippie)

On Tuesday night, I was honored to stand alongside some of the world’s most esteemed advertising leaders as we were inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

While I still don’t think that I’m “Hall of Fame” years old, the moment did make me think about the start of my career and the things I wish I had known when I walked in to Mayor White’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Boston fresh out of college.

1. The road isn’t straight

When I began my career in Cultural Affairs in Boston, nobody would have considered it a launching pad for a career in finance. As an American Literature major with a minor in art, banking was not a world I envisioned myself in.

But what I’ve learned is that most journeys aren’t linear. I was able to pivot from the Mayor’s office to broadcasting to the advertising world, where I spent 14 years at Hill Holiday. It was there that I not only developed a love for business but acquired skills and the stamina needed to do everything from rebuilding a brand to driving Bank of America’s Environmental, Social and Governance efforts to our European bank growth strategy. Each job has expanded my skills in a different way and helped shape the way I think and operate.

Today, the millennial generation is experiencing a wider variety of careers than their parents' generation. In many cases, they will hold around a dozen jobs in their life, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Having a wide-ranging skill set that comes from diverse experiences has proven invaluable for me, and I’m sure it will for many of them.

2. Curiosity is key

From public relations to broadcasting to advertising to banking, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work across a range of industries. But my ability to pivot from Hill Holiday to Bank of America (then Fleet) didn’t require a background in finance.

Most important was a desire and willingness to constantly learn, and the hard work to back it up. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in your role for five months, five years or 25 years - if you aren’t curious, you will have a difficult time advancing. Surround yourself with smart people, ask questions, read everything you can – embrace learning as a lifelong endeavor.

3. Learn how to read the room

You also have to pay close attention to those around you. It sounds simple, but studying and connecting with others is an underrated skill in business school, but has served me well over my career. When I was nine, I temporarily lost my hearing. During that time, I developed an ability to read non-verbal cues in order to keep up with what was going on at school and at home, as one of six kids.

Often, a person’s non-verbal cues are more telling than the words coming out of their mouths. I identified points of views that were not said, but could be detected in body language and facial cues. These created opportunities for further questions and perspective, and I learned from all of them.

4. You don’t have to be a “creative” to harness creativity

While advertising and creativity go hand in hand, creativity is not typically associated with finance. But as I’ve moved through industries, I’ve learned that creativity is just as essential to thinking about how a bank can deploy capital to help address society’s biggest issues as it is when you’re pitching an advertising campaign for a major client.

The ability to bring imagination and innovation to whatever field you’re in, not only makes you a better problem solver and generator of new ideas but has a positive impact on the overall organization. A 2017 McKinsey study found that the most creative companies outperformed than their peers when it came to organic revenue growth and total return to shareholders.

Creativity and innovation have been at the heart of some of the work I am most proud to have been involved with at Bank of America. I am energized to be able to work alongside passionate and creative colleagues who share the desire to figure out new ways to deploy our capital to address the biggest issues facing society today.

This includes our partnership with the Tory Burch Foundation to create new ways to provide access to capital for women entrepreneurs and our Environmental Business Initiative which finances projects that help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. This work earned Bank of America recognition as the top global bank on Fortune’s annual Change the World list.

5. Get back up

Throughout my career, the quality that has best served me – and many of the people I have seen succeed – is resiliency. The ability to reassess and adjust your plan when things don’t go as you expect is often the difference in being able to lead, even thrive, through tough times, instead of just survive.

When things aren’t going well, take an honest assessment of why that is and be candid with yourself and others on what needs to change. Then set a new course of action. Things aren’t always going to go as planned. That’s ok, it’s just means its time for a new plan. Sometimes just moving forward is the best measure of success.

by Anne Finucane

Originally posted on LinkedIn

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