Three things I wish I knew about transitioning from a big bank to the startup world
Advice for those looking to change careers from finance to startups
1. No one cares that you worked at a big bank
My first job out of school was at J.P. Morgan Chase in a two-year analyst program. It was a highly competitive program to get into. My finance friends and family members were proud, and I was equally excited.
When I started working at a startup, many of the colleagues did not view me as “special” because I came from J.P. Morgan. This was an eye opener for me because I was used to an environment where everyone was a finance major and understood the prestige of working at a big bank. Startups hire people from diverse professional backgrounds.
Simply put, never expect special treatment because you came from a bank or worked in finance. You will be viewed as a competent, hard-working professional, but so is everyone else in their own respective fields. I quickly realized that working in finance is only held to high-esteem in some circles while others may view it differently. Similar to a bank, you still need to prove yourself by adding value and contributing to the success of the company to stand out as a top performer.
2. Changes can happen suddenly and drastically
No one prepares you for this, but when things change, it happens fast. This was in stark contrast to the slow-paced nature at a large bank. That’s not to say that working at a bank is slow and boring. I’m referring to the pace at which decisions get made and change occurs as being slow.
I remember working on a project with the technology team that took an entire year to complete. At startups, decisions can be made at a moments notice, so always be ready to adapt to changing priorities. Product builds happen at a much faster pace. Sometimes it’s exhausting keeping up with the latest projects coming from engineering, but it’s also quite exhilarating to be part of a fast moving team.
3. Your career path is not linear
The career path at a bank is linear. You start off as an analyst then you work 2–3 years before you get promoted to associate, and so forth. The predictability provides additional security in one’s career, so moving to a startup may not be favorable to people who seek a traditional path.
When I moved to a startup, I knew that my career path wouldn’t be the same had I stayed at J.P. Morgan, but I didn’t realize that it would be as ambiguous as it was. I wore many hats, worked cross-functionally, and had learned a wide variety of skills outside of finance such as marketing, business development, and strategy & operations. This is common at startups, but never expect anyone to hold your hand when it comes to career progression.
You need to be proactive in getting what you want in your career. The benefit of wearing many hats at a startup is that you experience what each department is like, therefore, narrowing down where you would like your career to go.
Making the move from working at a large financial institution to a startup is a tremendous change in work environment. These are all things I had to learn throughout my tenure working at my first startup. It was an eye-opening experience and I learned a lot. If you’re looking to make the jump from a big bank to a startup, be thoughtful on these considerations. The one key takeaway I want to leave you with is that you control your own career.