JPMorgan Chase’s Samantha Saperstein Reveals The Common Career Advice You Shouldn’t Listen ToOctober 7, 2019
In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten, to what they’re still figuring out. Here, Samantha Saperstein, head of Women On the Move at JPMorgan Chase, shares how she changed fields early in her career, what’s currently on her to-do list, and why "do a good job and people will notice" is the worst career advice.
As head of Women on the Move at JPMorgan Chase, a program that supports female employees, helps women become financially healthy, and helps women starting businesses, Samantha Saperstein knows a thing or two about business and how to empower women to grow in their careers. But Saperstein actually started her career off as a journalist, and she credits her curiosity and keeping her options open for helping her switch fields.
Saperstein’s first job out of college was at a newsletter publisher, where she wrote a newsletter about the commercialization of technology from government labs into the private sector. She didn’t have business experience at that point, but she quickly found herself fascinated by business and the stories behind business. Her intrigue soon brought her out of journalism and into Wall Street. Her next role was as an investment banking analyst, which then led her to business school.
Now at JPMorgan Chase, Saperstein spends her days doing a mix of strategy with marketing, communications, as well as putting together events, like Women on the Move Leadership Day. This year, JPMorgan Chase employees and clients will attend or join in remotely on October 7 to listen to an impressive lineup of speakers, including Abby Wambach, Lindsey Vonn, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
With sessions like "Taking Control of Your Financial Future", "Performance Anxiety and How to Combat Self-Doubt", and "Solutions for Women with Too Much to Do", Saperstein says Leadership Day is meant to be filled with actionable advice women can use for their career growth, financial health, and their day-to-day lives.
This year marks the second Leadership Day where the company extended invitations beyond JPMorgan Chase employees to their clients.
"Our leadership day is really around our strategic areas of focus," Saperstein says. "Helping women with their financial health is relevant for everyone, [and] helping women in business will certainly be appealing topic for our clients. And then also just helping people with their careers, which we also thought was a universal topic."
Saperstein hopes Leadership Day attendees walk away feeling inspired. "I just hope they feel inspired to be together with other like-minded women and men who will be in the audience so they know that we’re doing this all together in solidarity," Saperstein says.
Below, Saperstein tells us what her day-to-day is like, who she goes to for advice, and how her kids’ bedtime routine helps her turn her brain off at the end of the day.
What does your day-to-day look like?
SS: Every day is a mix of working on one of our different strategic areas which includes talking to our team internally, talking to my business partners across the business about how we can support women and also talking to a lot of partners externally. I find myself vetting a lot of ideas with our close partners and then constantly talking to people outside the organization to see what they’re working on, how could we support things together, and what’s the best opportunities to reach women, both professional women and female consumers.
What’s currently on your to-do list?
SS: Where to begin? I would say after our Leadership Day is over we’re continuing to really push forward on the big projects and strategies behind each of our three areas. For women in business area, we’re set to launch a new sponsorship where we’re going to really help women who are founders of high-growth technology companies. What we’d like to do with them is identify them and help them start to grow. These high-growth tech companies are going to be my next area of focus.
For our financial health, our next big push is going to take content out through our branches. We have these very interactive sessions called Chase Chats, and Chase Chats are happening in our branches across the country and we’re bringing people in, and in our case, women in to talk about personal finances and how they can manage their finances.
Then lastly on the career front, we’re looking at a number of different programs that we want to launch for women, specifically VP-level women at our company, because it’s such a large group and it’s so important in terms of the pipeline of women that we can get into senior-level jobs a few years down the road.
How do you turn your brain off at the end of the day?
SS: I like to read non-business oriented things on the train ride home, like the general news to catch up. But once I step in the door, my brain is off and my children are top of mind. I would say the bedtime routine has a funny way of getting you out of your work life and really back into your family zone.
My current readings these days are all National Geographic kids books and that really helps … it helps to sort of bring the natural world into your day to day instead of work.
How do you pump yourself up before a big meeting or an event?
SS: I like to spend a lot of time practicing what I’m going to say at big events. I will spend weeks writing things and really thinking through the stories and the messages that I have, and I just practice, practice, practice. I tape myself when I do speeches and I watch them. My husband is my speech coach and he will give me constructive criticism and you have to take it with a smile, but I just find the best way to really get your head in it is to delve in and practice as much as possible so that it becomes secondhand to you and you don’t have to worry about it on the day of.
What’s something you currently need advice on?
I think I could continue to get advice from digital natives. Folks younger than I am that are more savvy in social media and know how to work multiple platforms to tell the story. I think I’m still pretty clunky across different platforms. I haven’t figured out where to post and when and how to sell a post, so that’s something I’d love help on.
Who do you go to for advice?
SS: In addition to my family, and that definitely includes my husband, I have a number of women who have been important colleagues to me over the years from various companies. So depending on the thing that I’m facing or wanting to talk to, I will go to my female work sisters. I actually have a group from a prior employer. We call ourselves "The Couch Club" and we try at least … back when we worked together we met monthly. We don’t as often, but we used to meet on a regular basis really for this purpose — to come together and talk to each other about what we were facing and going through. While I don’t have that Couch Club regular meeting anymore, I still have those women in my life. So I do reach out to them when needed.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
SS: My father always used to tell me to keep my options open, and what he meant by that was continue to excel in school and in your job so that more doors will open for you. I think that was really true for me. As I mentioned, as that curiosity about business started to open, I would follow that and I think that provided me with a lot more path than I would’ve been on.
What I’ve learned from mentors that I’ve worked with over time is that your network, the people you work with, and your sponsors are really going to be one of the biggest drivers of your success. So being very purposeful about developing sponsorship relationships at work is going to pay off in spades. I think that is just one of the most important things to think about.
What’s the worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
SS: "Just do a good job and people will notice." You have to do a good job, that part is not the problem. The people will notice is the part that’s the problem. You have to go out there and develop your brand and talk to people and network, and again, create those sponsorships so that people can help you and pull you into new opportunities.
I’ve heard about and gotten great opportunities when I told people what I wanted to do and I shared my aspirations with them. It was only upon hearing that when they put me in touch with people and jobs I never would’ve known about if I had just kept my head down and kept working.
What advice would you give your younger self that was just starting off your career?
SS: Keep in touch with more people, keep in touch with the people you even meet early in your career, I wish I had done that. We didn’t have social media back then so it was a lot more of the good old-fashioned phone calls and even letters, but it’s so much easier now to keep in touch with people and stay relevant that I would’ve told myself really maintain and build and keep your network going.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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