I didn’t always know finance; and there are many who would argue that I still don’t. Although I can safely say that I know untold amounts more than I did a year ago, before I foraged my way into the world of small business lending. While a majority of my now entrenched knowledge came by pure osmosis (listening to calls, eavesdropping on conversations, absorbing lessons and paying attention to mistakes) the twenty percent or so I am most proud of, is what I learned myself.
Learning as you go at work only gets you so far, so I have a little personal rule that keeps me ahead of my peers. Every single day, I take at a minimum, fifteen minutes to read up on some aspect of my career field of which I was completely ignorant the morning prior. I’ve found that just a quarter hour, at a minimum, is enough to introduce and basically understand a topic. If it takes a little more time, then I spend that time learning the basics until I can confidentially mention the topic in casual conversation.
That’s what I do every day, then I smoothly insert some topic into a conversation and ask the opinion of the expert about it. “Yeah, I know the Fed increased prime again, what’s your take on that?” Works every single time. If the conversational approach isn’t your style, get blunt. Sometimes I ask my boss quite frankly something along these lines, “So we give small business loans right? What exactly are loans anyways?” I kid here, and granted the questions are a little more complex, but you get the idea.
One of the most effective tools I use daily in my never ending quest for knowledge regarding all things small business finance related, isthe extremely useful “Google Alerts” function. Each day I get an email that lays out all news stories concerning “small business loans”, and as I sip the first of the many cups of coffee I will have that day, I peruse the articles sent to me and absorb what I can. All the while making mental notes to ask about what I don’t get. I absolutely relish those times when my boss or a colleague brings up something newsworthy I read about that morning and I know more about it because I read the whole article while they just saw the headline on their LinkedIn feed. Yay me!
Difficult to grasp concepts often come up often in my daily research and I take to other means to fully understand them. Usually I can find a short and informative YouTube clip that breaks down the concept to a level that I can grasp enough to pose a question about it to someone at work. In addition to the daily scoop on my industry, I try to read magazines and books that go into detail about the world in which I toil (meaning small business finance, in case you weren’t paying attention) as well as the financial section of the Wall Street Journal. My goal is to finish one or so book a month to stay on top of the trends. Plus, consistently asking questions shows my peers that I am trying to (and succeeding at!) becoming a subject matter expert. I don’t need to be in the C suite to be knowledgeable and the go-to guy for answers. They all know I’m the guy with the info.
This strategy has taught me a lot about the small things that I might otherwise miss once I’ve focused in on the day to day at the office. It also keeps me at a level of insight that is greater than the schmuck next to me who comes in for the nine to five and doesn’t give a second thought to the office once he’s outside the door.
It’s crazy to think that just a year ago I didn’t know what a loan broker was and now I help keep hundreds happy and get paid for it. Who knew I’d be so confident today when on the first day of work I spent fifteen minutes reading the results from a, “What is a broker?” Google search? Funny how much of a difference fifteen minutes can make. Time for another cup of joe.
Alexander Petit is the Affiliates Relations Manager at Dealstruck and just entered his career in finance last year. He previously served in the Navy where he was stationed in Japan for nearly half a decade. He now resides in San Diego and when he isn’t writing does stand up comedy in his spare time.