So You Want To Be A Banker: the Girl Banker’s Guide To Moving Up the Ladder

One of the most common questions I get from young bankers is "what is the quickest way to move up in banking?" While there isn't a perfect answer, and no banker is created equal, the list below is a must read for any young woman (or man) interested in a banking career. 1. DO THE WORK | If you take away anything at all from this blog post and refuse to read beyond this first point, then I hope this little nugget of advice sticks with you. DO. THE. WORK. Don't whine, don't blame, don't put down others. Don't be lazy and don't expect everything to be rainbows and ponies. Good work ethic seems to be hard to find and those that aren't afraid to work hard should rise to the top. This includes answering the phone in your branch when everyone else is busy assisting customers, helping your marketing team load the supplies for the big cookout, and putting up the dishes in the break room REGARDLESS of your tenure, title, or gender. I've witnessed CEO's take the time to do things below their pay grade and I've seen bank presidents show up late to an event and leave early before the cleanup is done. You can guess which one I respect the most. 2. COMMUNICATE | Remember that your bank management may not be equipped with mind reading skills. If you have dreams and goals, communicate them to your manager and do so often. When I was starting out as a teller, I remember taking every opportunity to tell my supervisor and the bank president that I wanted a future in banking. I was fortunate enough to have a lending position made available to me upon my completion of Grad School. Had I not communicated with bank management on a regular basis about my goals, it's highly likely that promotion wouldn't have been waiting on me. Take advantage of annual reviews to discuss your short term and long term goals and if your supervisor isn't listening, find someone who will! 3. FIND A MENTOR | If you don't have a mentor yet, get one. Mentors can come in all shapes and forms so don't pigeon hole yourself to becoming besties with everyone in the C-suite. The best mentors truly care about your development as a banker and want the best for you and can be anyone at the bank. Be sure to find mentors that are leaders with a positive and professional outlook and avoid negative people within your organization that talk badly about others on a regular basis. No one wants to promote a Negative Nancy or a Drama Queen. 4. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS | Banking is full of acronyms and sometimes has it's own language. Don't suffer in silence if you have no idea what the lender in the break room is talking about and don't feel bad if you can't contribute to the conversation about DTI, DSCR, LTV, or HMDA. Everyone starts somewhere and if you don't ask, you'll never know! If something doesn't make sense and your gut is telling you there is a better way, don't settle for "it's how we have always done it." That phrase can kill an organization dead in its tracks and sometimes it takes a new perspective asking "why" to push progress. 5. LEARN BANKING AND DO ALL THE THINGS | If no one at your bank is offering you continuing education opportunities, research what classes and training is available with your state's banking association or at ICBA. Gather the costs associated with the training and present the opportunity to your supervisor and be prepared to explain why the bank would benefit from sending you. Additionally, I feel that it should be a prerequisite for all bank management to have at some point served their time on a teller line. Regardless of your position, make an effort daily and show enthusiasm about being cross trained in ALL areas of the bank. Spend time learning your bank's products and services. If you haven't already, sit on the teller line and interact with customers to gain and understanding of what they truly need. Spend a day or two (or month) with loan operations and ask questions about the process behind originating, processing, and booking loans. Dive deep with deposit operations. Go on a call with your business development team. And by all means, when an opportunity presents itself to be more engaged with the bank, do it without expectations of incentive. Build that resume and show everyone you have what it takes. Success doesn't happen by accident. Do the work! (See Item #1).
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