9 Easy Career Hacks That Very Few People Actually Do

By David Teten | Sep 18, 2020
Career | ACHNET

I gave a presentation to Womensphere a few months ago on the most valuable lessons I learned early in my career. Back when I was an entry-level investment banking analyst at Bear Stearns (R.I.P.), our trainers gave us some basic advice on how to be a good analyst. At the time these sounded obvious but now with hindsight, I think that most of your success in your career is just executing on these basic points.

If you follow the steps below, you’re well on your way to being a top quartile performer.

1. Listen and write down what you hear.

I was told to always carry a notebook (now a smartphone), because clients and your seniors will ask you to do tasks. If you write down those tasks and actually execute them, you become known as someone worth asking to carry out these undertakings.

In my role as a venture capitalist, when I meet a founder, I often will make suggestions of people for them to meet, competitors to analyze and ideas to pursue. I don’t necessarily expect them to follow on any particular suggestion, however, I do note if they are writing down my suggestions. If not, that indicates that they may not be the sort of person who’s diligent about listening to the market. Not good. Why take that risk?

2. Get your data organized.

Successful people are careful to retain and organize all of their notes: on meetings, people they meet and assignments for which they have responsibility, to name a few. Being extremely detail-oriented is generally a good professional characteristic.

For instance, one of my standard interview questions for salespeople is, “What CRM system do you use, and how many people are in it?” A bad answer is, “Excel and a few hundred.” A good answer is “ [or another real CRM system] and [a much larger number proportionate to your number of years of experience]”

3. Follow the instructions.

Before you do any task, look for the instructions. For example, I’m amazed at how many funding pitches lack the basic information which investors require before funding -- even though Google provides that information in seconds. If a founder doesn’t do some basic research before approaching investors, it’s a sign she can't operate autonomously.

4. Look for prior art.

Lilin Wang, a graduate student at Cornell Tech, observes that others have already tackled 80 percent of technical problems she tries to solve. If you look for solutions on forums such as Stack Overflow before you do a task, you typically will save a lot of time. Similarly, Authorea (ffVC portfolio company) is working on being Github for academics, making the research process more efficient. Also,