By Mary Beth Suhr, Senior Vice President, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
I began my career in financial services in the mid ‘80s. Those were the days when “pantyhose” were a dress code requirement. Evan Picone was my brand, and inside each package was a little card with an inspirational quote. I still carry three of these tattered cards inside my wallet and have drawn upon them over the past 25 years of my journey. I hope these words of wisdom and the lessons learned will be helpful to you as well.
Card #1: To merely survive is not to live fully. We get what we ask from life. Ask for more.
As a wealth advisor, it is my job to help clients achieve their goals and dreams. I help them create a vision of the life they want to have and help them set clear goals for themselves. According to Aristotle, happiness is successful human living. But what defines success? Everyone should have their own definition of success that is synchronous with who they are and what they value most. To me, living successfully means living an active, integrated life that is in harmony with one’s life goals and personal value system.
To that end, I recommend setting specific goals for your professional life, personal life (including your financial goals) and for your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. I know it is easier said than done, but break these down to immediate goals (things you want to achieve now), intermediate goals (things you want to achieve in a few years) and longer-term goals (things you want to achieve later in life). Write them all down and discuss them with those who have a vested interest in your plan. This will become the roadmap for your future. A wise client once told me that “to be happy you need someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.” I agree.
Card #2: Keep your focus! Use your sweetest energies for the greatest good.
Stay focused and do not allow setbacks to distract you. Strive to be the best you can be in your chosen field. Develop your intellectual capital and invest in yourself. Be a life-long learner and obtain new knowledge, skills, relationships and experiences that will allow you to adapt to changing circumstances. I began my career as a private banker, then became a commercial banker, then a technology banker and later was recruited away to become a portfolio manager on a technology mutual fund. Now, as a private wealth manager, I am pursuing what I originally dreamed of doing at the start of my career. Life throws many curves and sometimes we need to pivot or step in a different direction to give ourselves a new footing from which we can propel ourselves higher. The relationships, skills, knowledge and experience we develop along the way will last a lifetime and can be drawn upon when you need it most.
Card #3: Have faith in your abilities and in the strength of your perseverance.
This last quote is my favorite. Some women doubt their abilities and lack confidence. Do not listen to the “back-seat” driver who sows the seeds of doubt into your subconscious mind. If you have invested in yourself and have worked hard to achieve your personal and professional goals, you should have a sense of the value you bring to the table.
These days, women’s compensation is widely discussed. Contrary to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella who once espoused having faith in the system if you want a raise or a promotion, I think you should build a case to justify what you want and why you deserve it. Early in my career, I never negotiated my salary when I accepted a new job offer. Later, after achieving meaningful results for a company where I worked, I presented my case for a raise. I was offered only a token salary increase without any opportunity to reassess in the future. Recognizing that no one was forcing me to work there, I chose to find a new company that would value the skills and experience I had to offer and provide a path for intellectual and personal growth. In doing so, I sought new challenges, was able to significantly increase my income overnight and propel my career to the next level. Before you negotiate, you need to know what you are willing to accept and what will prompt you to look for new opportunities. There is nothing better than having multiple options.
Throughout my career I have guided clients through many of life’s challenges including divorce, death, job loss, and various health issues. I’ve seen, as author Leon C. Megginson once said, that it’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.