To the Class of 2017
To the Class of 2017: Loyalty, Be Open to Feeling It With Memorial Day now behind us, another season of commencement addresses across college campuses has passed. Like you, I enjoy a good YouTube video on these types of speeches whether it’s a Navy SEAL describing how he starts everyday with the accomplishment of making his bed or seeing Will Ferrell appear out of character to deliver a warm-hearted message about the support his family provided him in pursuing his passion, comedy. Commencement speeches framed by personal experiences and the actions taken, both right and wrong fill my Top 10 list. That’s because life stories told with honesty and in detail provide the robust data young 20 something year-olds need when formulating decisions in their life and career. Hearing about actual mistakes, failures and home-runs resonate more deeply than messages filled with metaphors on rainbows, climbing mountains or caterpillars turning into butterflies.
So as this the class of 2017 begins its career on Wall Street, there is one personal story I’d like to share because it is representative of the tens of thousands of people employed in the financial services industry around my time of starting. It is a story on loyalty experienced between co-workers and to the company they worked for. I worked at the same firm for 18 years and was surrounded by many who had similar terms of employment. We felt loyalty towards each other, the company and yes, many of us even drank the metaphorical cool-aid. This loyalty enabled us to compete and be successful as a firm and as individuals. I, personally was extremely happy and felt fulfilled but in 2011, the company let me go and I was devastated. I felt betrayed having a part of my identity taken from me along with so much more. There are stages a person goes through when they lose their job; disbelief and anger are usually the first two. In my case I got past those pretty quickly, but it was the doubt I felt that my loyalty was misplaced that lingered the longest. Was remaining loyal over those years the best economic or career decision I could have made? I still don’t know that answer to that specific question and probably never will, but I do know that the loyalty I and those around me, felt towards each other, the team and the company motivated us to perform at our very best. This in turn made us more productive as a team and individually which provided both emotional and economic rewards. Could I have been more aware of the circumstances around me, yes but the decision on loyalty is no longer something I doubt. So, on behalf of the older generation, as you begin your careers please know that loyalty is not a character flaw and if you find yourself feeling it, consider yourself blessed because you will be more productive and happier than if you did not.