Pascal - Executive Management Trainee
The assessment centre, held in HSBC’s Canada Square headquarters, is the final stage in the application process for the graduate programmes and internships. Current graduates are on hand throughout the day to answer any questions applicants might have about what it’s like working at HSBC. As an applicant, it’s a great chance to get a feel for the culture of HSBC, to meet the kind of person who you might soon be working with, and to ask all the “informal” questions you might not want to ask the interviewer. Hopefully the current graduates also help calm nerves and let candidates give their best performance!
A couple of weeks ago I helped facilitate the assessment centre. There were applicants to a range of programmes. I found myself answering questions I’d never considered before.
One that struck me was:
“As a graduate trainee, are you a small fish in a big pond?”
It was a great question.
In such a large organisation, there will be multiple cultures and “ways of doing things” wherever you may go, and you will interact with all possible levels of authority. In a branch placement, you are genuinely not a small fish as you are expected to perform as a junior manager would. As one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team, you are already expected to perform as one of the most senior.
In corporate banking – where I did my second placement on the Executive Management Programme – you may well feel like a small fish; the majority of your colleagues are several levels of seniority above you and often have decades more experience. It’s an opportunity to put your head down, ensure you deliver good work, and learn quickly, while appreciating that in many environments you will adopt a junior roll in the early stages of your career. Whether or not you have an impact will depend on your skills of influencing without authority, and delivering above expectations. Regardless of grade, experience, or assigned responsibility, anybody can contribute to the table if they choose to.
Now I interact at group management level in my third placement. It is daunting to think how many grades more senior than me all those around me are. Yet I was given the opportunity to deliver from day one; everyone treats each other with respect and with a focus on achieving results together. On paper, yes I am a small fish, but that doesn’t change the mutual respect and patience granted to all, and the value and impact that can arise from anyone’s work regardless of job title.
It may be an over-used sentiment, but it’s true: you are not your job, and you are not defined by your level of authority.