How I Went From Banking To Becoming A Communication Skills Coach
Updated: Feb 3
Have you ever thought about there is one skill that you will learn as you grow?
It does not deteriorate with age, in fact it only gets better with age!
The single most important skill you should learn that will be useful in everything you do for the rest of your life, is communication skill.
When I first graduated from university in the UK in 2005, I was sending tons of job applications to apply for a graduate position in the Investment Banks, just like many of my peers.
I did not receive any job offer.
And even if there were interviews I could barely go pass the first round. I had no idea how to write a good CV, no idea how to write a cover letter and no idea how to answer those open-ended questions from the online applications such as “why do you want to join the industry?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years time?”
Most importantly, I had no idea how to impress interviewers during an interview.
Basically I completely lacked awareness of good communication skills and how it can determine the outcome of your job search.
So as you would expect, all my answers (whether it was written or vebal) were rubbish. On the internet, it was easy to find out what you should NOT do in your job search but rarely do they tell you what you SHOULD do. Unfortunately, because there were only a finite number of banks and (obviously) a finite number of jobs, people who were in the same position as me were not willing to offer help and guidance.
This is not their fault of course, and rightly so because everyone wanted to get into the banks those days, so it was rather comforting instead to know they have one less of a competition!
Anyway, after many trial and error I managed to receive my first job offer from an Investment Bank. So happy that I accepted the job without a blink of an eye, because that was what everyone else got in and I just wanted to be part of the “circle”.
I had no idea whether I would enjoy what I do for the next 2 years but as my confidence was so low that I thought if didn’t accept the job offer, I had no idea when I would have another one.
So fast forward 2 years, I started to apply for jobs again because I had learnt enough and that I knew I had more to offer. Moreover, I was now in a much better position to get interviews given the experience, and having become aware and learned about communication skills (and its importance).
During that job search in 2008, what took me by surprise was that recruitment agents have “branded” as a candidate who was only able to one type of job. They were unwilling to put my CV to other types of roles because they thought the employers would not be interested in interviewing me anyway.
“It was only then I realised that choosing what to do as job was extremely important, as it could impact how I am being perceived by employers for the next many years to come.”
But this time I did not give up, I started to read a lot of books, build my network and ask many experienced professionals on the subject of job hunting.
Over 90% of them said me, they would prefer someone who can communicate well and were willing to learn than someone who fits 100% of the bill because everyone can be trained to do the job but not everyone can present clearly.
These comments completely opened my mind about communication. Since I started to take serious notice on what/how I present, in meetings, in emails and I also started to work on my tone of voice, body language and listening skills. I also attended as many soft skills training courses as I can.
I continue to work in the Financial Service industry today. During these times I am lucky enough to have worked around the globe from New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and more. And having spent the effort to improve my communication skills I am now considered to be one of the best communicator, presenter in the team. I also have a network of professionals and recruitment agents who have given positive feedback on my skills and are willing to match me with prospective recruiters. I have also been nominated as "good performers" multiple times by managers all around the world.
I still think my career could have been completely different if I didn't make some of the choices I made many years ago. But hey, everyone is born with a purpose, everyone has something in them that makes them who they are. I continue to believe in myself, and so should you.
Finally, to end my story on a high note, the takeaway I would like to give is that:
The key to your job search lies with good communication skills. Your education, relevant experience are important but it is good communication that gets you the job.
And even if you don't like what you are doing and are desperate to find a change, don't be afraid, keep learning and take your time, don't make the same mistakes as I did.
Graduated in Imperial College London, Sam spent 17 years working and living in the UK before moving to Hong Kong in 2013. Sam started Soft Skills Academy Hong Kong to help people improve their ability to present themselves in front of individuals as well as group of people so that they can improve the quality of the relationships they build whether this is applied in job search situations, in workplace, marketing, sales and even networking.