Stop Playing the Job Lottery

Stop Playing the Job Lottery

Would you bet your career on the weekly lottery?

Most of us would say no, yet I see hundreds of people do this with their career every day.

When I first started on Wall Street in 1999, I’d apply for jobs online. I would do the aptitude tests, the online applications. It used to take me four to five hours per application, sometimes I’d get an interview, sometimes silence.

This was me playing the job lottery.

Do you play the job lottery too?

In 2016, Goldman Sachs said that they accepted 2% of their applicants.  

When I started, I wasn’t part of this 2%. But there is a way to make your way into that 2%. It’s what I have used for the last eighteen years to make it to the 2% and beyond.

It’s called Social Capital.

Social capital will get you a foot in the door. It’s what’s going to get you chosen over the other candidates. It’s going to ensure you get chosen for that promotion over others.


Social Capital is your networkyour collection of relationships. It is built on, and grows from, what you have to offer to other people, and what they in turn offer you.



Sources of Social Capital:

There are three sources of social capital in your life: people, knowledge and emotional support.

People refer to the people in your network — the relationships you have.

Knowledge refers to the information you possess — the facts, insights, opinions, or expertise that you can share with the people you know.

And emotional support refers to psychological and emotional well being — the support, friendship, inspiration and guidance you can offer in your relationships.

Just like there are rules for investing and financial capital, there are some rules to relationships and growing your social capital.

Now what surprises me is that I took all the finance classes in University, learnt all about CAPM, DCF and PE multiples. But no one taught me anything about social capital. In financial markets knowing investing rules is the difference between success and failure, but in life knowing the rules of social capital is the difference between success and failure as a human. It’s that much more important.

The good news is that, Social Capital builds just like financial capital – by making good investments. So even if you are just starting out, it’s ok.



What does this mean for you?

If you are looking to break into the 2% and the job lottery isn’t cutting it, here is how you can make those social capital investments to get you the roles, opportunities and responsibilities you want.


People: Introduce people you know. This could be an email introduction, an in-person meeting, a party, or an event you host. Whatever the means, connecting up your network is the greatest way to grow it. So if you know two people who have similar interests, hobbies, or that they might just like talking to each other than ask their permission and introduce them.

I’ve seen the most powerful people on Wall Street do this all the time. They bring the best people together and then get out of the way.


Knowledge: I bet you know a lot, but most of the time all of it is trapped in your head. Open up the information you possess. This could be sharing your perspective with a teammate, helping a friend rewrite his resume, sending an interesting article to someone who would appreciate the read.

The idea is to start thinking of your mind as an open-source project that other people can benefit from. Whenever I read something, I try to have a habit of thinking of whom else would like to read this.


Emotional Support: “Be There” for the people you know. This could be a phone call, a handwritten letter, a gift, a thank you, or simply being the sounding board for another person. One of the things about people in finance is that we are very good with numbers, but sometimes that comes at the expense of emotional intelligence.

But all of us are human, we all have the same problems. By being emotionally present for people you can make a big difference for others.



What happens in real life:

Here’s what’ll start happening as you start doing your part.

As you start introducing people, they will begin returning the favor, and when you need an introduction, they’ll be more willing to make it happen. Just like that, your network and relationships will grow. Soon you’ll have a passage into the 2%.


At the same time, you start sharing your knowledge more openly. As you share it, you become both a source and an authority on useful information for the people you know, which builds your credibility and inspires your relationships to share information back with you. Again people will see you someone with intellect and credibility, yet another reason to let you in.


And as you grow closer to those people as a result, you become a better friend, a better listener, which moves other people to become a better friend to you, deepening your rapport, trust and goodwill, and inspiring more and more acts of generosity. Another reason for people to want to help you and open the door for you.



The Importance of Empathy:

Now there is a pretty big super power behind all of these ideas and that is Empathy.

Empathy is about thinking about others and being generous rather than thinking about you. Most people you meet in finance will be focused on their own success, their own goals and ambitions, this is exactly why you have to focus on others rather than your own success.


Empathy is such a super power because of the effect it makes you have on other people. Empathy will allow you to appear more charismatic and caring and it will make people feel good around you.


Empathy is difficult to teach but easy to cultivate. To help you become more conscious of your empathy, make it a habit to do the following things:

– When you meet someone who makes you feel good, study their habits and qualities. What do they do or say that makes you trust them? How can you treat other people similarly?

– Focus on listening when you talk to people — really listening. When you listen, try to hear not just the words but the intention behind the words. Worry less about participating in a conversation than on listening, and see what happens.

– Constantly ask yourself how you might be able to help other people. Get curious about people’s lives and histories.

So here is what I want you to practice so you can stop playing the resume lottery.


Practice this now:

Here are three habits I want you to practice over the next week:

  1. Introduce two people you know every single week. That simple. They could share an industry, a sport, a passion or a language. Take a quick moment, compose an email or set up a meeting, and connect these two people. If you do this, you will have created more than 50 new relationships in the course of a year, to say nothing about the additional relationships that will result from your introduction. This is huge.


  1. Second, every time you read or hear something interesting, take one extra second and ask yourself: Who else would benefit from this? Then, take an extra second and share that piece of information. If it’s an article, email it to someone who’d enjoy it.


  1. Third, start paying attention to other people’s feelings. Notice how people seem to you. If you detect some frustration in a colleague’s voice, maybe ask him if he’d like to talk. If you notice that your friend seems down, you might lend an ear. Sometimes, just asking about someone’s emotional state goes a really long way.


Remember: your goal is to accumulate social capital and put it into use, by becoming a generous person in your day-to-day life. Do this consistently and I can guarantee you’ll be in the 2% in no time.

Relationships are critical, so look out for a couple more posts from me on the subject.

For those of you who can’t wait and want to make a difference, check out Why Smart People Fail to Achieve their Potential.


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