Thou Shalt Not Covey Thy Neighbor’s Career

Stephen R. Covey, the all-earnest, ever-cheerful guru of professional development, has addressed a new topic: how to go from having a job to pursuing a career.

He and collaborator Jennifer Colosimo might have published their self-help manifesto Great Work, Great Career (table of contents and preview available here) back in 2009 but, considering the economic free fall in recent years, we all deserve a pass on having missed it. Suffice it to say, now that the recovery is well underway by all accounts, and that Washington has no new plans for scotching that, the timing might now be perfect for you, the professional seeking investment banking jobs, to explore the concepts covered in the book.

If you’ve read Covey’s 1989 breakout The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you know that he was fond of such advice as “Be proactive” or “Put first things first” among other Captain Obvious-isms.  This is the guy who added “synergy” and “win-win” to the lexicons of middle-managers and MBA students everywhere. Even so, you got to give credit to the innovator who established these buzzwords.

This time out, Covey offered words that one can hope that the business world will take to heart: “contribution,” “loyalty,” and “trust”. To demonstrate your ability to contribute, one should be able to state, clearly and cogently, “how you can use your abilities and strengths to get to the bottom of an employer’s problems,” Covey and Colosimo advise. As for loyalty and trust, which the authors describe as “the fruit of your character and your conscience,” we can all hope that these are not new concepts to people looking for jobs in the investment banking industry. IB has always been a reputation business and, more and more as the world gets smaller and smaller, the rest of the economy is catching up.

But perhaps Covey’s greatest lessons about how to market yourself can be taken by example. The man was not exactly shy. You can buy his book in hardbound or paperback or ebook or audiobook or even iPhone app. You can spend several hundred dollars buying all the accompanying videos, tools and exercises, not to mention access to discussion groups and a personal goal manager.

So have confidence. Those investment banking jobs are out there. Just stay positive, be a problem solver, consider yourself a volunteer to a cause rather than an employee to a boss, think about the long term and, most importantly, be a paragon of personal integrity.

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