The Latest from the ABM Experts
May 4, 2020
Melinda Sung on Going from Intern to VP
Written by Sangram Vajre
These days, it’s no secret that most people hop around multiple jobs in their careers.
Gone are the days of having any expectation to retire from the same company you started at.
So, going from intern to VP is almost unheard of in the modern working world.
But my guest today, Melinda Sung, spent about a decade doing exactly that.
After finishing the marketing classes for her major early and needing to fill up some class time, Melinda decided to take some finance classes, which led to an internship.
And now she’s a VP.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Why you need to keep focused on yourself
- How to overcome self-doubt and defy expectations
- Why relationships are move valuable than anything else
This post is based on a podcast with Melinda Sung. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.
The key is to stay focused on yourself
Melinda: In my junior year, I could either do an internship at a magazine up in New York or work in Atlanta, with my school just down the street, at a wealth management firm. And obviously, I chose the latter.
I started as an intern, became an assistant and then an associate, junior partner, partner and a VP. I’m very proud of it. I don’t think there are a lot of people who can say that.
I can’t think of anyone in general with a story like that.
You’ve got to focus. You’ve got to put your blinders on and move forward. Focus not so much on everybody else, but on yourself.
Especially with social media these days. I still find myself wondering how people can go on these beautiful vacations for weeks at a time or about my neighbor getting a new car.
But it’s not about everybody else; it’s really all about you.
Overcoming the expectations of others
Melinda: There’s not a lot of people in financial services that look like me. I think there is a general conception that finance is more… um… older male. Perhaps a little paler.
It doesn’t bother me at all and the first 2 or 3 years of my career, I never even noticed it. I’ve always looked at myself as a person just like everyone else.
But about 8 or 9 years ago, I spent so much time preparing, focusing and working on this presentation.
It was in front of a board of probably about 25 people — again, older, more pale folks — and I remember walking in the door and I was so focused on doing a good job and knowing what I needed to say and how to say it.
The first guy opens the door after me, looks at me and he asked, “Are you here to take notes?”
I was so confident in my abilities and myself that I actually looked behind me to see if he was talking to someone else.
Whoever cares the most wins
Melinda: I genuinely care about my connections — whether personal or professional. I just care.
I think I am a genuine person and it translates into my work. I’ve spent so much time on something just because it means so much to that person that I am willing to put in that effort.
I had a very good client, who unfortunately passed away. He and I were basically working through his wealth management path for almost 10 years and we had gotten to know each other well.
When he was in the hospital and — I’m getting sad thinking about it — he could not speak. So, he had his daughter send me an email, saying: “Melinda, I really appreciated the advice and counsel you’ve given me and my family over the years and just wanted to let you know.”
I burst into tears when I saw that email.
You always want to think you’re doing a good job. But to have someone express to really reiterate it to you that way — you can’t even begin to describe it. He ended up passing away a few days later, but I still have that letter.