Making the Extra Effort

By Brett Steenbarger

As part of the work that I do as a performance coach for organizations that participate in financial markets, I interview candidates for employment.  It is very competitive to get a position at a top hedge fund or proprietary trading firm; there are dozens of candidates—and often many more—even for internship and entry level positions.

I recently interviewed a candidate with unique experience and skills.  He was personable and had a positive employment history.  The firm he was applying to is quite active in social media, offering many videos and online resources for people interested in pursuing a career in the markets.  When I asked the candidate about the online information that attracted him to the company, he could not provide a specific answer.  He could not name any of the programs that are unique to the organization.  I then asked him if he knew anything about me and my background, as I also have written a number of books and have had an active online presence.  Our candidate had not made the effort to research me after finding out I would be interviewing him.

I ended up rating him a 4 out of 5, which is a good rating.

It is not a great rating.

My best guess is that good won’t be good enough and he won’t be offered a position.  The failure to exercise that little extra effort to look into the organization he applied to might very well be the difference between a very promising start to a career and no start at all.

One of the topics I cover in my online seminars with Connect-123 interns is how to maximize the odds of getting a good position after the internship.  Taking the extra effort to make the most out of the internship and communicate it in special ways to an employer is essential.  Perhaps even more essential is taking the time to get to know the firm interviewing you and make sure your questions are as insightful as your answers during the interview.

Whether it’s physical exercise or interviewing for a job, it’s that extra bit of effort that distinguishes good from great.

At one hedge fund where I worked, the founder of the firm was known for his prodigious work schedule and the sheer level of his responsibilities.  Seeing someone you admire make those extra efforts made it impossible to say that you didn’t have time to get something done or couldn’t make a deadline.  People who worked hard during regular work hours were paid well and were valued.  But it was the people who made the extra effort and went beyond their job descriptions that were promoted and built a successful career.

What can you do today to stand out?

How can you make an internship make you special when it comes time to interview for a competitive position?

If you’re doing the work that speaks to you, good enough will never be good enough.  Be special with that little piece of extra effort each day.

Brett Steenbarger

Connect-123's Director of Student Development, Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and a performance psychologist for professionals in the world of finance. He is the author of numerous books on psychology and financial markets and loves connecting with students during their internships and beyond!

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