This Woman Left Morgan Stanley for Acting. Here Are Four Career Lessons She Learned.
Before starting her Morgan Stanley analyst job in New York in 2012, Yangyang Guo was excited to have a career that she believed would allow her to work with clients to help solve their problems. But dissatisfaction quickly set in as she realized her position gave her little client-facing time, mostly repetitive work and long hours. Her longing to fulfill her dream of being an actress grew.
Just a year and a month later, Guo quit Morgan Stanley and began attending acting school and auditioning for shows, while supplementing her income as a real estate broker. In 2014, she wrote, acted and directed a solo show called “My Unsexy Life as a Wall Street Analyst,” drawing on her past career experiences.
Now she’s producing her own documentary about her late mother and adapting her show into a short film while working as the business development manager at Flatiron School, a coding education start-up in Manhattan.
She shares the career insights she’s gained in the past four years with Mntors, a community where job seekers network with and receive on-demand career advising services with working professionals.
- Know yourself and what you want out of your career
“It’s our responsibility to evaluate everyday whether we are fulfilled by our career and in our job and if the answer is no, it’s our responsibility to change that,” Guo says. Being reflective about what she wanted out of her career and her twenties was crucial for Guo when she was considering a career change back in 2011.
“For me personally at this age, I’m trying to find fulfillment from what I’m doing so it was just about being honest with myself and realizing what was most important to me,” she says. Knowing that she also had a risk-taking personality was also helpful in convincing herself that she would be able to tolerate the uncertainty to come with an acting career.
But there’s also nothing wrong with staying with a safe, conventional career path — if that’s what is important to one personally. “I can’t tell you that it’s wrong because some people are not happy with their jobs but may want to feel secure and that’s totally valid,” she said.
2. Networking can get you opportunities you didn’t expect
Guo recalled an instance when she reached out to some high-level start-up executives for lunch and was offered a job after asking them insightful questions when they met.
“One piece of advice that I would give from a friend that especially resonates in the startup world, is that “when you ask for a job, you get advice and when you ask for advice, you get a job,” she says. “Sometimes you may not know the exact next step you want to take in your career but you should still have feelers out there.”
As a former Morgan Stanley diversity lead recruiter for Duke University, her alma mater, Guo admitted that it could be harder for college students who do not attend target schools from which big finance firms regularly recruit to network. That makes the importance of networking all the more important.
“We have books and books of resumes and you want people who are hiring to be able to see your face instead of just reading about you from a piece of paper,” she says.
3. Like an actor, actively listen — and hustle
Guo’s acting experience has taught her the power of listening in her other careers — whether it be the startup world or the real estate industry. “I think a lot of times people who work in business have very alpha personalities and sometimes we forget to listen to others,” she said. “Having been trained to listen to the other person has been tremendously helpful when you are working in any client-facing role and your client says wow, you actually found the exact apartment I wanted or are constructing a deal that totally fits my needs.”
She also advised against complacency even in a seemingly-stable career. “When you’re an actor there’s no one telling you what you should or shouldn’t do, so if you want to show you want to move forward in your career you have to hustle,” she said. “Constantly planning for the next step has helped me stay sharp and be very proactive in managing my own career.”
4. Cultivate connections who will help you go far
Guo found a mentor at Morgan Stanley in a Duke alumnus who often dispensed career advice and gave her support without judgment.
“I remembered how liberating it was to be honest with someone from Morgan Stanley and to be able to say I’m not happy here and I’m not having a good time,” she said. “Having someone with whom it was safe to share my thoughts and feelings so they were not bottled up was extremely helpful.”
Guo stressed that mentors are different from sponsors but both would be helpful for career advancement. “You need your sponsor to know what you did in the company and to fight for you in front of other managers when they’re deciding who should be promoted,” she said.
“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said. For many in their careers, mentors can be that special person. Interested in Yangyang’s story or looking for a mentor to help achieve your career goals? Check out Mntors.com.
Mntors is a marketplace for on-demand career advising. It connects job seekers with working professionals for career insights and recruiting tips.