Mentoring Wall Street Professionals About Determination and Persistence

July 6, 2018

Over the last few decades, I have mentored many young men and women, and continue to do so. It's something that I take very seriously. Mentoring often involves little more than listening to a young person struggle with choices and decisions that I had to deal with decades ago. I never try to be a substitute parent. I focus on solving problems -- one at a time.

As a kid, I was always admonished to use a firm handshake, sit up straight, look the man in the eye when you're talking to him, and make sure to send a "thank you" note. In keeping with such time-honored advice, I often tell young industry professionals to put that damn smartphone away during an interview and research the firm you're going to interview with and the folks that you will be meeting. Show up on time! Send a "thank you" to everyone you met. Persist in what you are trying to accomplish. Be determined to set goals and achieve them.

You will likely have many jobs before you find a career. You may think that you know what career you want to pursue but you may ultimately wind up in a totally unexpected place. Sometimes the bad jobs are the best ones that you will ever have because they inform you about what you don't want to do. When you look back, years later, from your perch as a successful professional, you often laugh at the disjointed path you took and you are amused at all the oddball coincidences that fell into place to get you to where you are now standing. You needed to be in the right place at the right time. That being said, there is much you did to put yourself in that right place at the right time. It just didn't seem that way when it all came together.

As a mentor, few things are more frustrating than dealing with someone who doesn't return telephone calls, fails to timely reply to emails, and thinks it is professional to communicate with customers and managers via emoticons. There is no persistence. There is no determination. It's all lackadaisical. Nothing frustrates me more than having to send emails, instant messages, and phone calls asking someone I'm trying to help if they contacted a lead that I had arranged for them -- did you call her yet?  As the "Not Yet" or "I'm too busy right now" or "I got your message and I promise to call her first chance" add up, I often see who's going to make it and who still doesn't get it. Time and tide wait for no one. 

An older lawyer who mentored me quoted President Calvin Coolidge. Now, mind you, Coolidge was not one of the best and brightest to hold that office but, hey, he did manage to offer some great advice:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. 

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. 

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. 

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. 

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Speaking of the power of persistence and determination, if you know of young men and women looking to enter the financial services community, have them listen to "Living with Money" podcast episode #25 between host Tim Mullooly and guest Alexander Palumbo. As noted in the brief description of the episode:

In Ep. 025, Tim talks with Alex Palumbo.  Alex is an investment advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management.  Both Alex and Tim are advisors in their mid-twenties, so they appropriately discussed how young advisors can benefit older clients nearing retirement.  They also talked about how to stay current in an ever-changing industry, as well as how to increase interest in finance among the younger generation and get them to take an active role in their financial lives!