Name: Travis Benjamin
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Current Title: Financial Advisor at Edward Jones
Industry: Financial Services
Professional Experience: 8 years at Citigroup, 2.5 years at AIG, 2 years at Edward Jones
Education: B.A. of Economics, Stony Brook University
What is the most important professional lesson you've learned to date?
Don't worry about money in your 20s and 30's. You should only care about learning as much as you can, building your network, and establishing a reputation for yourself. Most people will make the most money of their careers in their 40's and 50's but this will be largely determined by how much they focused on developing those key skills earlier in their careers.
What has been your biggest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
Staying in a position or at a company too long because I was very good at my job and became a subject matter expert. I didn't push myself to grow and try to develop new skills. Now I look at my knowledge, skills, and marketability year over year. If I'm not happy with the improvement then it might be time for me to make a change. Always push yourself to continue learning. While it might feel good to be great at your job, it doesn’t always help prepare you for the next job.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
My challenges have been mostly cultural. Being first generation American and first in my family to attend college, trying to fit into the old boys club is daunting. I went about it all wrong at first by trying to "act as if" I belonged. I then realized what worked best for me was to be honest with myself about what I'm unfamiliar with and embrace and celebrate my differences. To my surprise, most of things that I had initially assumed would isolate me became the topics of interest to those exclusive groups. Eventually I became more confident and came to see these thing as advantages since I wasn't the status quo. You should never be afraid to be yourself
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
My best resources thus far have been my relationships from past positions and the knowledge/skills I developed on my own outside of school or what was described in my job description. It is important for you to create and maintain a network. I’ve learned so much over the years from my peers. This doesn’t always come natural, even to me, but working at it has helped me create relationships that have been critical to my ongoing success.
Do you have mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
No, I'm actually currently looking for a mentor. I've had them in the past but I'm looking for one in my current field that's a good fit as I grow into my role as a financial advisor and look to take my career to the next level. Mentors have played such an important role in my career historically. They’ve helped me make important decisions that were both big and small.
What advice would you give a young adult who is about to start their first job post college?
Try everything you think you might have an interest in and if you can't try it, then shadow someone who does it currently. Knowing what you don't want to do is almost as good as finding your passion because at least your narrowing it down. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to try 4 positions within my first 4 years after college and it was all with same firm. That experience was invaluable for my professional development and helped point me in the right direction.