Working in financial services can be hard work. There are the sadistic clients, the relentless travel, the early mornings, the late nights, the falling away of non-financial services friendships and the need to stay coherent on a few hours' sleep in the toilets. On the plus side, if you stick it out you still earn more than in any other profession open to academic over- achievers without entrepreneurial aspirations. But how do you stick it out, especially when - anecdotally - a lot of people drop away?
A new study by academics at the UK's Middlesex and Loughborough Universities* suggests there are six dimensions to resilience in high performers. If you can satisfy each of these requirements, you should be one of the survivors.
The points below are not drawn directly from people in banking, but from elements of commonality in 13 high achievers in 11 different professions in the UK who'd been through a range of different stressors. These included: high workload, demanding clients, organizational politics, peer jealously, workplace bullying, serious financial difficulties, divorce, and the death of a significant other. Nevertheless, the individuals studied had maintained high level, high performing careers. Here's how:
1. They had a sense of control
They recognized that they'd actively chosen to work in their demanding jobs - it wasn't a passive thing they'd slipped into. As such, the choice was a positive.
They were also able to prioritize activities in demanding situations and to respond positively to 'capricious circumstances.'
2. They were flexible and adaptable
The individuals concerned were able to solve problems creatively, to quickly learn new work practices, to accept and respond positively to change, to be politically aware when working with colleagues and to display emotional intelligence and empathy towards the people they worked with.
3. They had balance and perspective
The long-term high performers weren't immersed in their jobs to the exclusion of everything else. They maintained a sense of identity that wasn't entirely related to their careers. At a minimum, exercise was deemed important, as was reading (non-work related) newspapers. Senior staff had learned to recognize their physical limitations and to self-limit their working hours.
4. They perceived that they had social support
High performers didn't feel like they were in it on their own. They felt supported, both by colleagues and mentors and family and friends. High performing men, in particular, felt supported by their wives and PAs.
5. They had positive and proactive personalities
The high performers studied didn't sit around and whinge about their lots. They demonstrate an array of desirable personality points, such as: openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, optimism and honesty to oneself. They also seemed to be continually striving for improvement, showing initiative,and constantly seeking out challenge in their careers.
6. They liked and sought-out challenging situations
Difficult situations were seen as a source of excitement rather than something to be avoided. Many consciously looked for challenging situations and when they made mistakes they reflected honestly about what had gone wrong.
*Ordinary Magic, Extraordinary Performance: Psychological Resilience and Thriving in High Achievers