My first job was the most influential job that I’ve ever had. It will probably continue to hold that weight for the balance of my career, head and shoulders above what I’ve ever done.
I had the good fortune to work for Goldman Sachs – though much maligned these days, it was very influential at the time I was there. I started my job there during a gap year I took between high school and college, working in the mail room.
After six to eight weeks of delivering mail throughout the company and working to impress the head of the mailroom, I was able to parlay my position into a role in the accounting department, where I spent the next six months working.
When I completed my gap year and began my higher education, I still returned to Goldman Sachs to work during the summer and was subsequently offered a job upon graduating from college. I spent another two years working for the company until I entered graduate school.
From the time I first started working for Goldman Sachs at age 17 until I left at age 24, I learned invaluable lessons through exposure to the senior management and partners on what it takes to be successful. You have to know what you’re doing. You have to understand the work you’re producing. You have to be able to answer any and all questions regarding your work, and you must be prepared.
There’s no secret sauce: It’s all about being a good listener, getting things done expeditiously, and putting in facetime, as well as always seeking out responsibilities and opportunities beyond the normal job description, which leads to interesting things and exposure to people and experiences one wouldn’t otherwise encounter.
During my time at Goldman Sachs, I also learned the value of seeking out a mentor. My own mentor at the company watched over me, meeting with me once a month to discuss projects, offer guidance, and recommend relationships to develop. I always found that useful and encourage young professionals to seek out their own mentors.
Additionally, I took away the key to the client service business: The customer always comes first, whether they’re right or wrong.
Everything since my work at Goldman Sachs has influenced me to a much lesser degree. My years there were so much more educational and informative in shaping my approach to my professional career than any other time.