THE INSIDER: Keeping busy?

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Banks these days have got less to do, and so have bankers - unless they work in corporate finance.

In corporate finance, the scarcity of deals doesn't make much difference to the volume of work underlings have to perform - it merely changes the focus from execution to origination. No longer got three deals on the go? You'd better attach yourself to as many pitches as possible.

But if business slows on the markets side, day to day workloads often plummet. On one hand, this is a good thing - you get to go home early and take a lunch break. But on the other, when banks are in cost cutting mood you'd be a brave individual to take full advantage of this new free time. The challenge is how to keep busy.

In this kind of market, the main and only real way of staying busy is to be proactive - go out and find work.

How? Well, if you're in sales in a single product area, look at collaborative exercises of cross-selling with other desks. If you're in business management, look at projects that will improve productivity on the sales/trading floor, eg sales tools. If you're in trading, take a leading role in IT development of pricing models, risk management architecture, or work more closely with sales to bring more trading expertise to key clients of the firm.

With just a slight raise of the head from your core responsibilities, you'll find things to do. It's also worth bearing in mind that whatever you involve yourself in should bring opportunities for networking (just in case your boss gets laid off). You need to make yourself useful, and visibly so, to as many key individuals as possible.

You should focus on hunting for work that:

1. Is important and valued

2. Touches a wide network of individuals

3. Has senior exposure

4. Is something you can execute

5. Is not liable to compromise your ability to perform in your core role

6. Has the sponsorship of your immediate boss.

I mentioned in my last article that I was hired into a role from another firm by my would-be future boss, only to find him gone two weeks after I joined. Not only did I have a new boss I had never met before, I was left flapping in the wind without any useful purpose. I was lucky in that someone very senior effectively gave me a bit of shelter with some work that gave me significant exposure to a number of key senior individuals, which has ultimately stood me in good stead. In this kind of environment you will probably need to create that kind of luck yourself.

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