1. What is your opinion on taking risky assignments? How do I know the reward is worth the risk?
In business, there is a saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Translation? It is impossible to get something you want without paying for it. If the potential benefits of a project are sufficiently rewarding, you need to pay for it with either sweat, money, or both. Otherwise, if it truly were free, everyone else would have taken it already.
To grow a business, it must attract labor and capital so it can create new products and services that customers will buy. To accomplish this, companies must take on projects with risk to ensure their growth. Without these risky projects, companies stagnate and become yesterday’s news.
As an employee, you are one of the many people at your company whose job it is to turn these risky projects into money machines. By taking on risky assignments, you are not only doing your job but also potentially helping your company maintain its relevance into the future.
Furthermore, I’ve found that being associated with risky projects that succeed can even be a career accelerant. Many of the fastest corporate climbers are associated with successful new product launches or turnarounds of challenged divisions. Rarely have I seen those who simply caretake a business get promoted up the corporate ladder quickly.
To determine if the risk is worth the reward, recognize it is an art not a science. Otherwise others would have already stolen your lunch. But I believe to rise up the corporate ladder, you have to take risks and bet on yourself – albeit educated bets.
A simple framework would be to think of it as an investment. A human capital investment. Determine if the market opportunity for you is sufficient to warrant the investment of your precious time. If the project is successful, what are the possible outcomes for you? Will it put you in the HOV lane or will you still be stuck in the slow lane? What about if the project fails? Will it torpedo your career or could it actually earn you kudos in a company where taking risks is rewarded and failure is worn as a badge of honor?
A final check is to make sure that your boss’s directives are consistent with these assignments. You don’t ever want to go rogue and take on risks if they won’t be rewarded by your organization.
2. Why is Return On Time Invested (ROTI) so important?
Time is finite and our most precious resource. It is why many people accumulate wealth and power: to buy more time. Being mindful of one’s time is also a great judge of whether you are having meaningful interactions with those around you and helping your career.
I’m a firm believer that the best way to accelerate your career is to always be adding value to those around you. This includes your boss, your co-workers, your clients, and your partners. Be cognizant of each and every interaction. After spending time with you, do they tell themselves, “That was a great use of my time. I need to spend more time with Dave!” Or do they think, “Dang! I wish I could get that 30 minutes back!”
The best way to manage your time and those around you is to consider the Return On Time Invested, or ROTI. What was the return or outcome from the interaction relative to the time spent to create it? Was it sufficient? Did your meeting generate an action or idea for the other party such that they used their time wisely? Or, more importantly, did you spend time on an interaction that will further your own goals whether that be monetary, spiritual, or otherwise?
If your answers to these questions are “yes” then you are on the path to success. You are adding value and building a good career. However, it is easy to drift into time wasting activities so always be on guard and manage the ROTI of others and yourself wisely!
3. How can I use emails to my advantage?
The first thing to realize is that the emails you send are treated like spam. The average person receives well over 100 emails a day and when I worked on Wall Street I would get over 1,000 emails a day. Most of the emails were useless and didn’t lead to anything actionable. For me, as I suspect for most people, these emails were low on ROTI (see prior question). Bottom line: no one wants more emails.
That being said, if applied correctly, getting things in writing can help your career. No one carves stone tablets or writes paper letters anymore so email is the best way to get something written in perpetuity. They can be your written track record of success or dossier of your accomplishments. Client recommendation letters, co-worker praise, and records of your contribution are all great to have in your eternal email inbox.
One last tip is to make sure you have the final word in writing but only if it’s praiseworthy. Anything bad should be verbal because written emails are forever, while the spoken word is in one ear and out the other.
Now write that email and press send!
About the Author
Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.
He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history. As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.
Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.
If you want some great career tips and insights check out Dave’s book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior.