Tactics To Accelerate Your Career: The Jamie Dimon Way

The importance of making the right moves in the early stages of your career.

This is Maverick J welcoming you to Leverage Thoughts where impactful ideas for multidimensional execution are shared every Sunday at 9am BST. If you enjoy reading this post, proceed to like, share and subscribe. If you want to contact me, please email me at leveragethoughts@gmail.com

A common theme across my last three posts has been on optimal tactics to accelerate ones career. This post continues along that theme. I hope that this newsletter is beneficial to the thousands of graduates starting out in their careers or to those who are still in the first decade of their careers.

From primary school all the way to university, we are given guides on how to navigate those systems. On graduation from university, we are left to our own devices and thrust into the working world. The working world a friend of mine likes to call the early career game. There are a few people who know how to play the early career game. But for the majority of people, they don’t even know of the existence of an early career game. And even when they find out that an early career game exists, there is little to no guide on how to navigate the career system.

The early stages of our careers are incredibly important; It’s a time for risk taking, experimentation and establishing competence. My goal with this article is to share some tactics used by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, in the early stages of his illustrious career to turbo charge his career. This newsletter was written for millions of others and I who are navigating the career system.


Who is Jamie Dimon?

Photo by CNN

Jamie Dimon was born on March 13, 1956 to Theodore Dimon - A stockbroker at Shearson Hammill - and Thamis Dimon. Dimon has been the CEO of JP Morgan Chase since December 2005. He played an instrumental role during the 2008 global recession. JP Morgan Chase was one of the few banks that was able to weather the 2008 global recession due to his insistence on the firm having a strong balance sheet.

Over the past 15 years, he has taking JP Morgan Chase to the top of American Banking.

It’s against this background of achievements that I decided to base this newsletter on. What can Dimon teach us on making moves early in our career? Let’s jump right into it!!!


Don’t get Too Hung Up When Your First Choice University Turns You Down

When Dimon finished high school at Browning - a private all boys school, he wanted to attend Brown University. Dimon had graduated fourth in his class at Browning and would have expected admission at Brown to be a given. However, Brown did not offer him a place. A disappointment for the young Dimon. Undeterred, the confident and assertive Dimon attended his second choice Tufts where he ended up graduating summa cum laude; Majoring in Psychology and Economics.


Work Experience is King; Even in Fields You Have no Long Term Interest In:

After his graduation from Tufts in 1978, Dimon applied to Harvard Business School and gained admission. However, Dimon decided that he wanted to gain some work experience before going to do his MBA at Harvard. He deferred his admission for two years and applied to a couple of consulting firms. He got a job at a consulting firm in Boston called Management Advisory and Consulting where he spent the next two years working and learning a lot about himself and work life.

Some of the things Dimon learned were:

  • The general idea behind fundamental research.

  • That a lot of companies suffer from bureaucracy.

  • That he definitely was not going to be a consultant.


Go Get The Education You Want

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

When Dimon went to do his MBA at Harvard Business School in 1980, the American economy had just suffered a couple of years of stagflation and was on the brink of a deep recession. This was not the right time for anyone to go study finance at Harvard according to conventional wisdom at the time.

However, Dimon wanted to go into business|finance and an MBA for him was an excellent opportunity to ground himself in the fundamentals of business. He excelled at Harvard and was the vice president of the school’s finance club. He ended up graduating in the top 5% of his graduating class; A position that earned him the Baker Scholar.


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Seek Counsel From a Trusted Mentor

When Dimon finished from Harvard Business School in 1982, he placed a call to Sanford Weill, then chairman of the executive committee of American Express, to ask for advice. Dimon had been offered a job at Goldman Sachs and he wanted to know what Weill thought about it. Goldman Sachs was then Wall Street’s most prestigious and lucrative partnership. Weill’s first response to Dimon’s question was:

What’s more important to you? Making the most money or continuing on the fastest learning curve?

Weill continued by making a proposal to Dimon:

How would you like to come be my assistant and we can learn this thing together? We can learn a heck of a lot about how corporate America works and how a diversified financial services company works. You probably won’t make half of what you’d be making at Goldman, but that’s a far more concentrated and high pressure job, and I don’t know what you’d be building.

This appealed to Dimon who loved the concept of helping to build a company. Dimon decided to accept Weill’s offer to start from the ground up.


Take The Uncommon Path!!!

By turning down an offer from Goldman, Dimon was taking an uncommon decision. Most people would haven taken the offer at Goldman Sachs without thinking twice about it. What did Dimon gain from taking the job offer to be Weill’s assistant?

  • Dimon immediately got exposed to dealmaking at the highest levels albeit as an assistant. The very first major project Weill and Dimon worked on was getting rid of a poor investment made by American Express without American Express taking the associated loss.

  • Dimon quickly learned the ins and outs of a business. Weil was not much of a teacher and there was no training book or manual to gently introduce Dimon to the worlds of high stake business. This environment was perfect for Dimon as he quickly developed expertise.


Have Faith With Your Mentor and Take Some Risks!!!

After a proposal by Weill to Jim Robinson - then CEO of American Express - fell flat, Weill decided that it was time to resign. Weill resigned from American Express on the 25th of June, 1985. This was barely three years since Dimon had started working under Weill.

Dimon had a decision to make; A complex decision that would shape his career in a way than he could ever have imagined. The choices in front of him at that time were:

  1. Follow Weill to the land of the unknown.

  2. Stay back at American Express as a vice president under a new division.

  3. Take a job at any other top firm in Corporate America.

Options 2 and 3 were the most logical at that time to take; Options which his friends advised him to take. At this point, Dimon was a husband and a father and financial security for his young family was very important. However, Dimon being a man of contrarian values saw it differently. He felt that Weill had one more adventure in him despite his fall from the top echelons of Corporate America and that following Weill to the unknown was a risk worth taking. He declined the vice president job offer from Jim Robison and followed Weill.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Weill and Dimon spent the next year with little to no business until an opportunity to take over Commercial Credit, an unglamorous Baltimore based lender, presented itself. The takeover was successful with Weill and Dimon taking Commercial Credit public. The initial public offering(IPO) at the time was the third largest in American Corporate history.

Dimon’s decision to follow Weill for the second time in three years had started paying off in incredible ways:

  1. Dimon received the second largest number of stock options in the company after Weill. This brought Dimon some financial stability.

  2. Taking an active part in taking a company public at the age of 30. An IPO that set a record in Corporate America.

  3. Dimon had started to build a reputation for himself as a man to watch out for in the finance business.



Summary of Tactics We Can Learn From Jamie Dimon To Apply in the Early Stages of Our Careers

Some of the tactics that we can learn from Dimon are:

  • Seek the counsel of trusted mentors.

  • Pick accelerated learning over money at the beginning of your career.

  • If given the opportunity to take remuneration in form of equity, take it.

  • Go work in an industry for a fixed amount of time to pick up some skills.

  • Learn early on what industries your personality type is not suited for.

  • Know what you want and go for it.

  • Know your personality type. Dimon was able to thrive in an unstructured environment when he started working under Weill. Dimon was a self starter and a quick student

  • His experience in consulting exposed him to the workings of various firms early on.

  • Don’t get too hung up on the job title when you first start out; Especially if the opportunity to learn is enormous. I published a newsletter on this last week on this which I recommend you to read.


Some of the stories in this newsletter were based on the book: Last Man Standing, the ascent of Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase by Duff McDonald.


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