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Olu Oyinsan: How to Quit Your Banking Job in Nigeria

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Do you feel stuck working for a commercial bank in Nigeria? Would you like to switch careers but the prospects are looking bleak? I wrote this with you in mind.

I started working for a first generation top-tier bank in Nigeria during my NYSC, and I ended up writing the entry-level test the following year. I was so excited at the thought of becoming a “bank big boy,” but was also nervous that I might not pass the aptitude test because in the past, some of my smart(er) friends had taken the test and not passed.

Fortunately, I passed the test and interviews, and I completed the required 4-month training school, which, by the way, has been one of the most useful foundational learning experiences in my career till date.

Commercial banking is a highly regulated industry all over the world with many standardized processes. I believe this is one of the reasons for the monotony that characterizes the industry. The employees in the Nigerian banking industry are even more susceptible to feeling career fatigue and a lower level of job satisfaction due to the high profit appetite of the banks that show up in the form of poor work content design.

These banking industry flaws do not exist in isolation, as they are aligned with the cultural “big man” syndrome.

Whether it is because of the routine nature of work, unrealistic deposit targets, the highly condescending tone of managers, or even the uncertainty of the career path because the promotion and incentive system is inconsistent.

The good news is that, like me, you can leave. Here are five things I recommend:

Strategic and Aggressive Networking
If you are in sales (sometimes called “marketing”), cultivate a healthy and robust relationship with every customer or client you interact with.

Every interaction is an interview. Show a deep understanding of your industry and the ability to add value in every conversation. However, never attempt to promote your career ambitions at the expense of your employer’s work. It’s not only dishonest but may portray you to be unreliable and untrustworthy.

If you are not in a customer facing role, go out on Saturdays to conferences, professional events and meetings related to the industry you are trying to enter. Project yourself positively and network, network, network. The more people who know about your work ethic and professional disposition, the better for you.

Build Transferable Skills
During my time in banking, it appeared that many employees had the same skill set from their second to their fifteenth year working at the bank. This “stagnation” in skill set is due in part to the repetitive nature of banking work.

However, no employer wants to hire a manager with the skill set of an associate.  My advice is to move around internally in your bank, find positions that will challenge you intellectually. Learn industry standards and best practices around the world relating to your job function (even if you can’t use it at your current job). Understand how the whole banking system works, don’t just focus on the functions of your department, know how it all fits.

So, for instance, if you work as a loan approval officer in the bank, go further and get a certification in credit risk. Learn about systemic risk, learn about how a faulty loan approval and collection risk can affect the liquidity position of the bank or a company in any other industry. By knowing this, you have suddenly become a great candidate as a financial risk analyst in another sector with better remuneration and possibly improved quality of life.

In my experience, employees in specialised units like HR, financial control, credit risk, and electronic payments usually find it easier to achieve a transition out of traditional banking jobs.

Get Another Degree/Certification in Your Field
In corroboration with the previous point, you could get a certification in your area to continuously validate yourself as a professional in your field beyond just the role-specific knowledge that comes with experience.

For example, if you work in banking operations, get a lean/six sigma certificate. Or if you work in retail marketing (sales) get an advanced degree in consumer behaviour or channel marketing. This certification will not only position you as a forward-thinking professional but will place you on top of the pack for opportunities in other industry verticals where your skills are useful.

Volunteer for Bank-Wide Special Projects
Once in a while, big companies bring together a cross-section of employees for special projects. It might be a think tank for a new organisational strategy, focus group for a new product launch, or an internal team to work with external consultants.

When it comes to projects like these, employees can be grouped into three classes. Some employees show up after lobbying to be a part of these engagements. Some run away because weekend must be had. And there are those who don’t even care enough to hear about it. If you are looking for a career change soon, you want to be part of the first group who will show up.

The advantages are numerous. Not only can you be positioned for upward movement in the organization, but this engagement should also go into your resume as additional skills and volunteer projects.

Lastly, it would expose you to people outside your organisation, one of which could be your next employer. Who knows?

Have an Up-to-Date Resume
You would think this is obvious, right? But I know a lot of people actively trying to change jobs but do not have an attractive and up-to-date resume. If you haven’t resolved to craft an attractive resume, there’s not much I can do to be of help. If you, however, have the resolve but don’t know where to start, the internet is a great place and here are some pointers:

· Visit a few job sites like Jobberman, Glassdoor and LinkedIn jobs to identify the kind(s) of roles you desire and are most qualified for.
· Note down the high-level requirements regarding education and skills that employers require for these roles.
· Tailor your resume to magnify the skills and training you have that would position you for these roles (please do not lie on your resume).
· To compare your resume with industry standards, you can go on employer recruitment websites like careerbuilder.com and search for resumes like you are an employer. You will see what a typical resume and qualifications for various roles should look like, so you know what you’re up against and can refine your expectations.

I hope you have found this piece useful.

PS. I am by no means a Human Resource professional, so this does not qualify legally as career advice. I’m just an advocate for professional development and reaching the full potential of one’s abilities. Do share your success stories with me at [email protected]

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Oluwaseun is an ex-commercial banker with an MBA in finance and Strategy from Hult International Business School. He has also worked in technology consulting and venture debt in the United States before returning to Nigeria. He is currently a venture investor at Ingressive Capital- an early stage venture capital fund that invests in promising technology startups in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa.

7 Comments

  1. Ada

    November 15, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Well said. I’d like to add save up to start your own business, turn your passion/hobby into a money making venture. The longer you stay in banking the more disgruntled you get. The days of paid employment is no longer in vogue. More people are creating their own destinies.

  2. Olaide

    November 16, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Thank u so much for this well-thought-through article, Currently trying to get out of banking, so this has been helpful.

  3. Ada_ugo

    November 16, 2018 at 2:53 am

    Yes, yes, and yes! to number 2…. build transferable skills from each role and MOVE AROUND, ain’t nobody gonna give you an award for being in the same role for 50years. I generally change my role every year… yes, every year… and by God’s Grace, I have been fortunate enough to achieve that. Once I feel I’ve got the general gist of what this position is, I am off to newer and more interesting things.
    I know there is something to be said for job stability, and I once had an employer question this on my Resume, but quite frankly, if they feel that you’re the best thing since sliced bread ( because of all the skills you have built from moving around), they could still offer you the role. Of course exercise this with caution – make sure you are not moving horizontally just for moving sake, but all your moves should be strategic, and the time spent in each role should be personalised to you, your industry, and your career goals.
    Buy this is a really good write-up with good tips for all industries, really, not just banking

    • Olaide

      November 16, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Hey Ada, thats really impressive. How do u convince your team to let u go. In my case u have to be sure the new team has space, and u need to find a back up in your team, so it kinds of discourages movement.

  4. Radiant

    November 16, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I am not in banking but I benefited from this.

  5. Emma

    November 19, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    What an applaudable piece. Thank you for taking your time to stare this with us . It Speaks volumes. Those of us trying to choose a career path know not to touch the banking sector. Lol

  6. Cee

    November 19, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Yaaassssss! That’s my friend right there ?. Seriously though, there’s a great deal of wisdom in the points you offered. What is remarkable is that aside from the professional courses, the others just require that you apply yourself or utilize an innate skill. Well done Seun, I’ve certainly learned some useful tips.

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