Banish feelings of inadequacy: How to make it as a big shot before 30

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The latest Forbes list of finance wunderkinder ‘30 under 30’ is enough to make even most heavy-hitters feel hopelessly inadequate.

While most people are still couch surfing and living off the Bank of Mum and Dad in their early 20s, most of those on this year’s Forbes list run successful and hugely lucrative businesses, manage billions of dollars, or have climbed to the top of a very competitive pile to be top in their game.

The list is dominated by finance professionals at banks and hedge funds, while others have used time spent working for traditional financial services companies as a springboard to start their own companies.


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We asked a number of executive coaches what these young over-achievers have in common, and how other young financial professionals who aspire to similar greatness can hope to emulate their success.

Kully Jaswal, a Hong Kong-based executive coach for the past four years, prior to which she was a director at Deloitte, says such driven and dynamic young professionals tend to have very high IQs and EQs.

“They understand people, and they have strong communications and leadership skills.”

She says that alongside their competitive natures and passion for what they do, they would also tend to be very resilient individuals with high levels of energy.

Charlie Lang, an executive coach and managing partner of Progress-U Group, which has offices in several Asian centres, agrees, saying that their ‘surprisingly high EQs’ give them the ability to influence successfully those who considered putting them into these positions in the first place.

“From my experience coaching young successful managers in finance, they also have an extremely high drive to achieve and therefore are ready to go the extra mile without hesitation. They also tend to be highly optimistic people who are willing to take calculated risks backed by a belief that you won't make big steps if you don't 'play to win', unlike most others 'playing not to lose'.”

Professor Dan Levin, dean at the Aventis School of Management in Singapore, which offers career coaching, says that key characteristics of these rising stars include “a deep sense of purpose and passion that powers their ability to strive under pressure”.

He points out that they would also have clarity of thought and strong communication skills that enable them to present their vision and views to the stakeholders such as investors, boards, and colleagues with confidence.

But he also notes out that the financial services industry tends to place less weight on seniority in judging the readiness of employees for advancement.

“High performers can move ahead regardless of age. As a result, working in financial services can be attractive and rewarding for such high flyers. Successful professionals are also more likely to be judged by their ability to juggle multiple responsibilities, often beyond the official job description. Thus a premium is placed on quick thinking and results.”

Achieving such significant milestones as those on the list have takes more than glowing personality attributes. The coaches polled by eFinancialCareers were in agreement about how aspirant 30 Under 30-ers could strive for this goal: continuous self improvement.

See Luan Foo, an executive coach operating from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, says ambitious young finance professionals should embrace continuous learning. Furthermore, they should accept vulnerability in self and take corrective action, but they must remain ‘gutsy and action-oriented’.

“Be humble and trust your inner voice. Don’t follow the crowd and ask questions rather than give answers,” See Luan says.

Perhaps in a similar vein, Jaswal says that young professionals should look to develop their EQ as this plays a very significant role.

Lang says that young professionals looking to emulate these stellar successes should focus on continuous improvement.

“Be clear and focused on what you want to achieve. Go the extra mile, take calculated risks and recognise that other people will decide how fast you can progress. So build good relationships and learn how to be influential.”

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