Emerging talent development

Navigating Career Transitions

In the recent internal mobility series, we completed a simple introspection process to discover the critical information necessary to create a practical framework for your career transition.

Now that you have achieved clarity on your dominant attributes, triggers of fulfillment, long term vision and practical steps to embark on the journey, the next series of articles titled “Navigating Career Transitions” will provide valuable context on the first steps of your exciting journey.

The series will identify the broad categories of transition, including self-management challenges inherent in change such as fear of failure, dealing with naysayers, and inadequate discipline; as well as tangible challenges related to the difficulty of leaving a job, such as the potential loss of financial stability, prestige and position when taking that “fork in the road”.

We started the series with the high-level view of the typical types of transitions that may be experienced.


It is in the early recognition and acknowledgement of the category of your transition that allows you to prepare for the likely challenges the two main categories of planned and unplanned transitions.

Part 2 – Unplanned Transitions

In the first installment of the Navigating Career Transitions series, we discussed a wide variety of scenarios associated with making a planned transition.

Unfortunately, some career transitions are triggered by unplanned events. For example, a job termination, reduction in workforce, a personal health crisis, or when a family needs to relocate.  Additionally, unplanned transitions can be driven by macro level changes from events like the 2008 Financial Crisis and the recent global pandemic.

Unplanned transitions may often trigger disabling emotions such as anger, anxiety, shame, fear, hopelessness, and despair.  These emotions can significantly degrade the ability to recover quickly and move forward, at the very moment you need resilience.

Most unplanned transitions can be handled in a similar framework as we discussed in the Internal Mobility Series, but only after you have mentally and emotionally accepted the sudden change.

To start, a key mindset helpful in your response to unplanned transitions is to gracefully accept that “you are where you are”.  Life is a series of chapters, and although stressful, unplanned transitions provide the ability to cleanly and decisively close one and open another. Even more so than the “Bad Fit” planned transition, the unplanned transition is the ultimate catalyst for change. It’s happening. Although difficult to grasp as it is occurring, in retrospect you may see clearly that the unplanned event provided a new opportunity to reset the course of your life and career. It can be a blessing, but only if you adopt the right mindset.

Of course, it is natural, and even valid, that your first reaction may include a feeling of victimization. There could be a long, drawn-out process of trying to determine exactly why it occurred to you. This is the most dangerous mindset to allow because it can last for a very long time and continue to accelerate into a death spiral of defeated mentality. How do you nip this negative mindset cycle in the bud?

To the best of your ability, try to keep your inner dialogue focused on asking yourself the right type of questions. Avoid the questions that create an echo chamber of your natural feelings, like “Why did this happen to me?”, “What will people think of me?”, or “How can I avoid embarrassment?”

Instead, ask enabling questions such as “How can I generate replacement income?”, “Who are the five people I should approach to consider next steps?”, and “how can I utilize this moment to improve myself?”.

Yes, this requires discipline and it is simply about winning the inner battle on perspectives.

One of the core principles taught in military survival training is that the key to resilience is to focus forward, analyze and act on what needs to be done now.  Ask “How can I channel my time and energy today into figuring out paths through the hardship?” You must avoid the trap of prolonged misery and the mental loop of asking “why did this happen to me, and how did I get into this predicament?”  The only thing that really matters, after a short period of recovering, is to drive on. You may have heard the quote attributed to Sir Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

When faced with unplanned transitions driven by macro events, it is key to recognize that large societal movements bring change and opportunity that may not have previously existed. It is the ability to see through, and decisively act during chaos that usually determines the positive outcome. How do you encourage this “seize the day” mindset in yourself during macro unplanned transitions? Ask yourself the simple question: “What problems have been created that need to be solved? How can I add value and contribute to a solution?

After weathering the precarious initial period of an unplanned transition, you must acknowledge, accept, and own the situation, regardless of how or why it occurred. Then, you must quickly move to the next phase of planning and decisive forward action.

Part 1 – Planned Transitions

Planned transitions are characterized by proactivity and a sense of control regarding timing of execution. This category can be broken out into several sub-categories. Here are a few of which I have applied fun labels. 

"Running down a dream". These life altering transitions transcend the career, and usually involve multiple elements of change. These normally occur earlier in life, but there is no age limitation for being ignited by a dream, where some powerful and pivotal experience, or sustained memory, is generating maximum excitement for pursuit. These transitions can be all-consuming and challenging to complete, but even though it has significant risk and potential life instability, you still feel compelled to do it. Examples include starting your own business, joining the military or Peace Corps, or committing to a faith-based mission. I once worked with a very senior M&A banker who decided to leave his distinguished role to move his family to Ethiopia to engage in non-profit work with people in deep need.

The "Running down a dream" transition is defined by the mindset; your fear of regret (of not trying) is far stronger than your fear of failure.

What is the pre-test question of your commitment to this endeavor? Are you "all-in" motivated, and have you acknowledged the risks, formed new alliances, and accepted the potential outcome of failure?

"Crazy Ivan".  Remember that movie "The Hunt for Red October," when U.S. Nuclear Submarine Commander Sean Connery was dueling with his sophisticated Soviet counterparts in the high stakes game of naval warfare...and they used a dramatic and surprising turn-around maneuver called the "Crazy Ivan" to completely reposition the course of the vessel? This is analogous to a professional who has a well-established and stable career path, but intentionally decides to alter the course of a career without following predictable patterns, many times moving from mastery of a job, back to novice. 

Classic examples include military to corporate transitions, where the veteran may be moving from command of vast resources and people in high stakes missions, to sitting in a cube and feeling vastly "underemployed" and unappreciated.  These types of transitions often involve retraining, rebuilding of prestige, position and network, and require a definitive "stick to it" timeline and emotional determination.

The pre-test question: Can you exercise the patience and humility required, and do you have a clear vision of the desired outcome to sustain you through the humbling transition period?

"Bad Fit". Have you ever been so dissatisfied in a career role, that your pervasive thoughts are that the "misery must end"? Maybe you feel frustration, unhappiness, or anxiety. Maybe you determine that your attributes are not valued, and nothing about the job fulfills you. There is no success with misery, so this may be the easiest transition to initiate. Remember, that misery is the magic, because you are deeply motivated and hungry for change. The double-edged sword is that, as our parents used to say, you jump "out of the frying pan and into the fire".

The key is to do the groundwork described in the internal mobility series. Recognize that your time on this planet is limited, so it is best to separate yourself as soon as possible, in a reasonable and responsible manner, from the environment that you have determined is not true to yourself and conducive to overall wellness.

The pre-test questions: Have you developed advanced self-awareness on what needs to be present in the next opportunity to avoid ever being at this fork in the road? Can you articulate it to others in one minute? Are you running towards a better opportunity?  If not, do more work before the prison break!

"In Orbit". Many achievers start careers filled with positive energy, hope and idealism. They work incredibly hard, do all the right things, make others proud, achieve their goals, but somehow after years of accomplishments, they haven’t yet realized the person they truly want to become. The years of hard work have stripped away the idealism, hope and energy, and there is a sense of acceptance of this reality of "comfortable dissatisfaction".

Let’s call it being in "orbit".

Nothing is "wrong" in that the workplace may be constructive, the provision of resources is sufficient, and you feel as though your work is value-added, but it doesn't feel "right" as an expression of your greatest self.

This type of transition is easiest to execute because it provides time, absent of external pressures, to form a plan of action and a timeline. Many ask how to transition in this steady state, but the key is to understand that a gradual transition, one that allows you to dip your toe in the water, is possible and prudent to execute. Let’s say you identify a key trigger of fulfillment to move into a career field that allows you to experience fulfillment from impacting others’ lives in a positive and direct manner. Maybe you start by involving yourself in clubs, community activities, side ventures or boards, to establish a future full-time path.

The pre-test question: Do you really understand what is missing from your current experience, and can you identify which endeavors may provide it?

The next installment of the "Navigating Career Transitions" series will provide some insights on how to approach a difficult and anxiety producing unplanned transition.

Internal mobility series

On Friday, June 30, our annual Investment Banking analyst cycle concluded and our class of 2021 completed their two-year commitment. This “fork in the road” is a powerful moment for our Development Officers and leaders, because we have witnessed and guided the amazing growth of our emerging talent bankers since they arrived, fresh out of college. Their maturity, skillset and confidence have grown exponentially, and it is so much fun to witness!

The advice I offer to newly minted bankers on day one out of college, is to focus their energy on learning, growing, struggling, and developing over a two-year period, before considering the next move. This definitive time approach allows one to gain a proficiency in the basic analytical/technical/process skills, while providing an excellent experience to enhance self-awareness. Otherwise, the daily whipsaw of triumphs and challenges may simply blow a new graduate around like a leaf in the wind. Moreover, it is important professional courtesy to reciprocate the investment a firm makes in you with a reasonable period of fully committed work.

One of the greatest advantages of working for a large institution like Wells Fargo is the range of opportunities available to pursue over a lengthy career. On three occasions over my 25-year career, for distinct reasons, I successfully moved internally within this vast institution of opportunity. If it had not been for the strong culture of internal mobility and the expansive range of careers at Wells Fargo, I would not be writing this post as a senior executive.

The first question to ask yourself is as follows; “Have I given this current role reasonable time to become competent, establish credibility, understand the role, and honor my commitment to maximize the opportunity provided?” As mentioned earlier, this is two years in my book, but there is nothing magical about this number. Once you have passed the “reasonable time” test, you should take the next step of enhancing self-awareness.

So, in the spirit of this moment of natural transition for the class of 2021, I want to share my perspectives on the important (personal and organizational) topic of internal mobility.

"What's next?" | Part four: "Get out there"

Congrats! You put in the work and completed the introspective phase, and have a better understanding of your dominant attributes, triggers of fulfillment, and “Future me” blueprint. Now, it is time to shift the focus outward to learn about other people and appropriate opportunities outside of your current work environment.

So, what are practical steps to expedite the process?

Start with technology. It is easy to utilize today’s technology to cover ground quickly. Use free tools like Google and ChatGPT to accelerate the process of identifying opportunities that match well with you. For example, type simple phrases like “a day in the life of...” or “attributes required for....” You will be able to screen any potential career opportunities quickly and accurately. Try it now. In a small amount of time, you will know if the perceived image of the job matches up with reality; if your dominant attributes are valued at the highest priority; and if your interests may be fulfilled in this role. 

You can also use video platforms or podcasts to listen to people in those professions describe their career experiences. Embedded in their personal recounting of the journey will certainly be clues about the qualities and skills required for success, and the triggers of fulfillment. Think about it; have you ever watched a profile of a professional, from scientist to financier to athlete, where the story did not reveal these facts? I recommend a website called www.beyondtheuniform.org, focused on transitioning military veterans. It is a free website that offers over 500 podcasts of veterans who have successfully transitioned into all walks of life. By utilizing this tool in the early phases of a transition, a veteran (or any person), can quickly screen opportunities that may be a good fit. It saves time and effort.

Get out there and dip your toe in the water. Most adults, even when achieving clarity on the next step in the journey, may not be able (or willing) to drop everything and fly off into the wild blue yonder. Life’s responsibilities can constrict your audacity. So, start by doing something small that truly utilizes your attributes and gives you fulfillment. For my transition into the personal development space, I started with results from the introspective phase; public speaking was a dominant attribute, and impacting others in a positive way was my “trigger.” With that understanding, I decided in January 2019 to moonlight as a public speaker with a goal of delivering thirty speeches in a year (to whoever would listen). That step led to authoring a book, creating video content, and eventually taking a new role within Wells Fargo as a Development Officer. 

Join groups, clubs, or any organization where people possess the same attributes or interests that you have discovered in the first three installments of this series. I know it sounds elementary, but for example, if your dominant attribute is communication skills, then surround yourself in your free time with other people who clearly thrive in this arena. Consider a speaking, debating, writing, or book club. If you are naturally quiet and cerebral, pick activities that attract these types of people. These interactions away from the work environment, often lead to discovery of new opportunities where your talents are genuinely appreciated. 

Openly share with real people. The technology screen allowed you to identify potential matches, but you need to be willing to engage in open discussions to build a network of enablers. You should openly share in every conversation possible because you never know who your connector or your enabler will be. At 22, I spent over a year telling everyone within an earshot of my desire to become a pilot. Eventually, I mentioned it to a gentleman named Mr. Don Hess during a sales ‘cold call’ at his office. Mr. Hess responded that he had served in Vietnam with a former pilot who was now a General at U.S. Army Recruiting Command. He offered to speak with his friend to get options for me, because he sensed that I was committed to achieving this goal. 

Ask for another. After you have engaged in a mutually enjoyable conversation with one person and have thanked them for sharing their story and valuable time, close with a simple question: “Based on what we discussed, can you refer me to one more person who may share their experiences in this career field?” This question usually encourages them to scan their brain to identify other people who may be able to help you. 

Double back. If you do talk with a referred person, be sure to double back to the original person and let them know that it was helpful and appreciated. If you are lucky, they will work hard to find another, based on the positive impact of their first. Your network of connectors and enablers will grow exponentially. Make sure that you always show a genuine interest in learning about them, and they will reciprocate and be interested in you. 

Now that we have completed the four-part Internal Mobility Series, tune in next month and we will discuss challenges of life transitions, and provide practical steps to overcoming classic obstacles including the fear of failure.

"What's next?" | Part three: "Who is the future me"

In the first two parts of the Internal Mobility Series, “Dominant attributes” and “Triggers of fulfillment,” we established an effective and reliable framework to screen any potential opportunity quickly and decisively, before the window closes. 

The third part of the series, “Who is the future me?," is about determining if today’s tactical decisions are consistent with your long-term personal development aspirations. This article offers a simple method to create a vision of the type of person you want to become in 10, 15, and 20 years.

For over three decades, out of pure interest, I studied successful people at all levels of society in various capacities, and this I believe to be true:

Very few of them accurately predicted their actual career path from their early days in the workforce, even though they are excellent planners and goal oriented. All of them, however, accurately visualized the type of successful person they aspired to become. Most importantly, success is not about “what you get” from any job, but more about “who you become” on your career journey.

For example, banking is an expansive career field that offers a wide variety of attractive opportunities for talented professionals who are willing to take risk and seize them. Changing variables like market dynamics, geo-politics, monetary policy, investor psychology, emergence of new financial products, regulatory changes, and other large forces create career opportunities for the nimble, skilled, ambitious, and decisive professional.

For example, over the last 30 years, many career paths were altered by the following powerful forces:

  • The 1994 Interstate banking legislation,
  • the late 1990s dot.com boom,
  • the horrible events of 9/11,
  • the mid-2000s political focus on home ownership that led to the boom of Mortgage-Backed Securities (“MBS”),   
  • the 2008 financial collapse due to the failure of those very MBS securities, 
  • the follow-on Dodd-Frank legislation, 
  • the growing emphasis on Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG),
  • the powerful evolution of financial technology,
  • the COVID pandemic.

How many professionals calculated these game-changing events at the start of their careers before the events occurred? Maybe a few, but those that did are outliers and lionized as visionaries.

In addition to these earthquakes that trigger tsunamis of opportunities, we also experience a dynamic environment driven by our personal, family, and health decisions.

The point is that it is impossible to predict all the variables involved in the future, so it is less important to script out our exact career path, and more important to have a clear, long-term vision for who you want to become.


Begin by identifying leaders, family members, historical figures...anyone you admire and respect, and identify what specific qualities they possess that you would like to emulate in your future self. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you want to become them, but instead develop their specific qualities important to your aspirational future self. For example, is it part of your future self to become a...

  • subject matter expert?
  • respected visionary?
  • influential speaker?
  • highly skilled technician?
  • empathetic leader?
  • skilled negotiator?
  • excellent client manager?

Then add in elements from non-career related areas. For example:

  • Loving and dependable family member?
  • Fitness and wellness oriented?
  • Financially secure?

For each of these specific qualities, make sure that you have an actual person identified who has demonstrated excellence.

Again, you do not have to know them; just have access to information to help you learn about their lives. For example, I studied the qualities of influential public speaking in Sir Winston Churchill, steely tenacity in Frederick Douglass, efficient professionalism in U.S. Secretary of State General Colin Powell, and positive energy and presence in Tony Robbins. 

The goal is not to be them, but to improve yourself in these aspirational qualities: study excellence.

Once you have identified what qualities, skills, and behaviors you would like to emulate in 10, 15, or 20 years, and you know who sets the example of excellence, write a simple paragraph about who you will become. Post it in your closet, on your mirror, or wherever you can review it frequently.

You now have a blueprint to your “future me.”

Whenever an opportunity arises; a fork in the road that you have screened using the first two parts of the series about dominant attributes and triggers of fulfillment, then ask this vision related question:

Does this opportunity enhance my ability to advance towards the person I aspire to become in the future?

If this opportunity, this crack in the door, is consistent with these simple questions discovered in the three-part series, then kick the door open and go for it.

Even if you feel these potentially debilitating emotions, leave the regrets, anxiety, fear, doubts behind and just seize the moment. When you get to the next fork in the road: Rinse and repeat.

Next month, in the final installment in the four-part series, we will touch on a related subject of internal mobility and share practical steps to identify opportunities outside of your current work silo.

"What's next?" | Part two: "Triggers of fulfillment"

Part one of the internal mobility series, “What’s Next?” discussed identifying your dominant attributes, and then determining where they are most valued and sought after in society. Understanding your dominant attributes is critical before changing your career trajectory. Without it, you may end up feeling underutilized, undervalued, and unappreciated by your team members.

The second part of this series, "Triggers of fulfillment", examines the identification and understanding of what triggers your feelings of fulfillment and significance.

Can you remember 3 to 5 times in your life when you felt a deep sense of purpose, fulfillment, or significance about yourself? What were you doing, and why did you feel that way?

If you can go back and identify these types of moments, and then decode what really triggered those feelings, you will have tapped into the source of your future sense of purpose, fulfillment, and significance.

So, how do you decode these moments that triggered fulfillment? Start with two simple steps.

  • Keep questioning “but why?” as you dig deeper into this area of introspection. You need granularity. For example, it is not sufficient to say, “I was fulfilled when I was solving problems”. But why? What type of problems? Were they academic, relationship, coordination, organization, planning, analytical, physical confrontation, or operational problems? What skills or qualities did you use? What was the environment at the time? At what point in the process were you fulfilled?
  • Explore the “connecting thread” between these 3 to 5 moments. If you can find this thread (what is consistently present in these past moments of fulfillment), you have discovered the Holy Grail of career/life mobility. This is the key to selecting the right path to achieve success with fulfillment.

Qualifying career question: “Does this triggering condition exist in the new job opportunity that I am exploring?”

Once you have a deep self-awareness of your dominant attributes and triggers of fulfillment, you have a reliable framework by which you can decisively screen and pursue any potential opportunity before the window closes.

Next month, part three of the series will share a simple and quick method on how to clearly develop a vision statement of the type of person you want to become 10, 15, and 20 years from now. This process will provide guidance for the tactical decisions needed along the road to “success with fulfillment.”

"What's next?" | Part one: "Dominant attributes"

Part one of the series deals with the identification, acceptance, and increased utilization of your dominant attributes.

Start by honestly taking inventory of your three (most) dominant attributes. What are they? Are those attributes truly valued in your current role? Are you able to use these dominant attributes every day at work? Remember, sometimes “good is bad, and bad is good” ...it just depends on the application of those dominant attributes. 

For example, let us consider Bond Trading versus Investment Banking.

A bond trader’s ability to generate profits for the firm is directly correlated to her/his ability to make quick decisions with asymmetric or limited information. In other words, the trader excels for having the ability and willingness to be decisive without near-perfect information. The attributes of high intelligence, analytical capacity, strong risk management are similar qualities of an Investment Banker, but this one dominant attribute may guide a decision on the best home for a professional within a firm. 

If a trader requires 100% information before they act, well, the competitor traders have already booked it...so a dominant attribute of being “decisive with limited information” is valuable (good) as a bond trader, but less so (bad) in other professions. The same dominant attribute is not so valuable in an Investment Banker, who may be engaged in strategic advisory with a Board of Directors, requiring a deep analysis with all the merits and risks carefully considered. 

So...if you have always struggled with selecting which movie to attend, you may not be suited for long term success as a Wall Street trader!

A key part in this introspection phase of internal mobility is to recognize that “dominant” doesn’t necessarily mean “good or bad,” as perceived in the current role, or life in general. It just means you are identifying something about yourself that was ever present since you were a child and if properly aligned, may be your “competitive advantage” within an organization. 

This step is critical to successful career/internal mobility because leaders, managers, peers, and mentors cannot truly help you get to the right place until they understand you...which starts with you...so think about it. 

What are your dominant attributes?

Next month, the second part of this “Internal Mobility Series” will deal with identifying and understanding your triggers of fulfillment and significance.

Emerging talent development

Within Wells Fargo’s Corporate & Investment Banking business, we offer a unique approach to emerging talent management through the integration of seasoned Development Officers within various lines of business. This is a pioneering role in the world of banking and creates an environment conducive to the long-term success of junior bankers with a focus on professional development and career fulfillment.

Wells Fargo’s unique approach to emerging talent management

At present, no other banking firm has this exact role; a non-HR senior business leader embedded within each business group and focused exclusively on the management, development, and wellness of the emerging talent community. The results speak for themselves. The role has a positive impact on the emerging banker experience and serves as the foundation to deliver a world-class experience over the first 5-6 years of a career journey.

The historical practice in most corporations is to identify and promote into management, the professionals who excel at their existing job. If a banker is successful in executing deals, a bond trader puts up tens of millions of dollars in profit, or an equities salesperson excels in client coverage, the individual is advanced into management as a natural progression of upward mobility. But the flaw in this age-old practice is that the high-performing professional may not have the skillset or interest in managing subordinates.

Management often requires a prioritization of non-producing functions such as coaching, development, assessments, and training. While the relentless pursuit of excellence in producing functions is what distinguishes the talented professional from their peer group, that skillset and passion may not translate well in the management role. This dilemma often results in the necessary management functions taking a back seat to the producing functions, aka “player coach.”  When the inevitable constraint of limited time is added into the equation and “task triaging” must occur, the result is usually a deficiency in direct management effectiveness relative to continued high performance as a producer.

Frustration, resentment, and declining job satisfaction are likely to set in with the manager, and this person may long for a return to the days of daily productivity and clarity of purpose. Moreover, direct subordinates may perceive a lack of senior manager engagement on the range of functions that employees expect along the career journey in a world-class organization, including mentorship, direct feedback, quality reviews, apprenticeship training and the counseling needed to navigate the highly competitive workplace.

Any organization without robust management engagement is likely to suffer such consequences as underdeveloped talent, weak inter-group connectivity and deterioration in culture values. These conditions often lead to poor retention and unplanned attrition, which trigger backfill hiring, re-training and lost productivity. Experts estimate these (unnecessary) costs can decrease bottom line by 30-50% of each departing employee’s annual compensation.

Enter the Development Officer, Wells Fargo’s unique approach to enhancing direct management in the revenue producing Corporate & Investment Banking division, including Banking, Markets, Commercial Real Estate and COO/Control, with expectations that the role will expand across the enterprise. 

The Development Officer is a senior level manager of emerging talent, with underlying experience in the business, who has self-selected into the direct management role based on personal interests, dominant attributes and demonstrated effectiveness in management, leadership, and mentorship. The Development Officer oversees activities such as recruiting, training, staffing and annual review initiatives, ensuring that important strategic initiatives like DE&I, market-based compensation and wellness are considered in the pursuit of delivering excellence to our clients.

In the Development Officer, emerging talent bankers have a seasoned coach and advocate to navigate challenges specific to the early phases of a career, including post-school/military service transition, introspection, work-life balance, and family changes. 

I recently spoke with members of the student body at UMass Amherst, and one question during the day was “how can I measure the commitment that a firm is making to my professional and personal development?”

My answer was simple. When the opportunity arises, ask your potential employer the following question: 

“What senior leader will be focused on my development and wellness as their top priority?”

The answer will reveal a firms’ commitment to development and the underlying investment in your long-term future. 

When talented students decide to launch their Corporate & Investment Banking careers at Wells Fargo, they can be assured that all elements of a world-class talent experience are in place to improve their ability to achieve success with fulfillment.

by Frank Van Buren, Managing Director, Development Officer Leader, Banking