Whether its in Accra or Freetown, there are a lot of young women working in the banking industry with transnational financial institutions. For every one who is a manager, bank teller, or administrator, there are many more young women hoping to land a job in banking. Maybe its just that its a booming industry, perhaps its the allure of the corporate life, or maybe just the idea of having a “respectable” job in an industry that deals directly with hard currency. Whatever it is, I have found that banking can be a jarring often, rude awakening for many young people male or female.
The complaints we hear about working in the African banking sector are about the hours, the strict dress code, and the pressure to deliver by any means necessary.
Long Hours: While most banks close at 4pm, staff often have to stay at the office till as late as 8pm on a regular basis. Banking often makes it difficult for you to follow your other passions, or go to school. Rarely is the salary, and allowance enough to really compensate you for the long hours. These hours at a desk often mean that you will live a more sedentary lifestyle, and are more likely to put on weight.
Dress Code: If you want to be a banker then you have to quickly learn to love the colors, black, blue, grey, or dark brown. This is not the place to express yourself with your personal style. While you will end up spending a lot on work clothes, these are clothes you’ll only be able to wear to the bank, or maybe a funeral if you’re lucky. Some banks also have strict policies on hair style, including color, and length.
Pressure: All jobs have varying degrees of pressure, but bank staff in marketing, and collections especially feel more pressure than most. There is a lot of pressure on banking staff to open new accounts, and bring in new clients. While no one is going to tell you to sleep with a client, we know that there are many men in our societies just waiting for a tit for tat. Attractive young women sent out to convince a mostly male clientele to do business is a recipe for trouble.
So if you’re a young woman looking for work, and are considering a career in banking, please make sure you are fully aware of the working conditions. Not every bank is going to have a healthy working culture that will allow you to learn, and grow. Maybe working in banking in Africa is not for you, not sure how to find your purpose, below are 5 tips from MindBodyGreen to help you discover a job you’ll love.
1. Focus on what brings you joy.
What do you really enjoy, so much that you forget the time? Do you spend hours helping your teams, organizing your home, or cooking? Whatever it is, it’s probably meaningful to you. Be open to what ever these activities are, even if you think you can’t make a living with them. Once you figure out what gives you meaning, there are many ways to build it into your life. Do more of them to hone in on which part is most meaningful to you.
2. Cut the drag.
Minimize activities that drain you and address what isn’t working. Common issues are health, lack of sleep, high stress, or relationship challenges. These can create a negative or reactionary perspective that distracts you and keeps you stuck.
3. Own your strengths and limitations.
No one is great at everything. Self knowledge and acceptance are key. Focus on your gifts, stop beating yourself up for your weaknesses and outsource them.
For example, I am great sensing what people need and providing inspirational, creative problem solving. I do not enjoy aggressive politics, project management or operations. This means that coaching is a much better fit than selling consumer products.
4. Look for themes.
If you are looking at several meaningful areas and can’t decide which one to focus on, look for themes in your life to evaluate how strong of a fit each direction is.
Where do you spend your time and money? This is likely what you value. What do people consistently say you’re really good at?
5. Get involved.
Volunteer, join a club, or take a class. This is a low risk way to build experience and determine whether it is truly the fit you thought it would be. You may make some great connections in the process.