How I found the best of both worlds at work

October 14, 2016 | GET MORE : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Liz Deziel made a difficult decision in her 20s to get into banking after several years of working with youth at a nonprofit

Like so many young women, I thought I had a clear direction for my career when I first started out. How wrong I was! I began my career in the nonprofit world, leading after school programs for teens in downtown Minneapolis. This was meaningful work, as I was providing a safe place for young people to engage in positive activities, develop leadership skills and establish healthy lifestyle habits. My favorite memories include taking urban teenagers on canoe trips in northern Minnesota, creating a teen center, and starting a student government program at our partner school.

But there was a downside. This work was emotionally exhausting and the late evening work hours were challenging. I also had a nagging sense that I was meant to do something else. I was promoted while there, and given more responsibility over the years, but I felt I was underutilizing my brain and over-utilizing my heart.

Meanwhile, my college sweetheart and I were recently married, and we’d bought our first home – a beautiful 1920s one-and-a-half story in south Minneapolis. My husband was also a do-gooder, working for a nonprofit that does great work in Guatemala. Being in my 20s and just a few years out of college, the financial responsibilities of life began to settle in, and I began to wonder how on our salaries we would ever be able to afford a vacation, a new car, or KIDS! Or, someday, a home where the master bedroom was not a flight of stairs away from the only bathroom in the house!

And I’m not alone. According to U.S. Bank's recently published Possibility Index, 42 percent of Americans say their financial situation prevents them from fully enjoying their home lives, with pressures specifically around paying bills (32%) and saving for children’s education (33%). Sixty-eight percent of Americans have a savings account, but fewer than half (45%) have a retirement savings account, and only 32 percent have investments beyond this. I didn’t want this for my family.

As a successful business owner, my dad always thought I should pursue a career in business, but I gravitated toward philosophy, sociology, and gender studies in college, earning a degree in Liberal Studies. As I started to question my career path, I realized my dad may have been right, and I pondered how I could pivot into the corporate world. I thought that a corporate foundation or community relations division might be a good fit for me, and researched which companies with headquarters in Minnesota might have roles I'd be interested in. I cold-called the head of the U.S. Bank Foundation, and she not only answered my call, but agreed to meet with me and offered me a job a few weeks later when a position opened on her team.

I started my MBA shortly after joining U.S. Bank, using tuition reimbursement benefits. I had always been good at math, and had a newfound curiosity for accounting, finance and economics. When I looked around the organization, I noticed that the Wealth Management people seemed to have a balance of working with clients and structuring deals, which appeared the best of both worlds (i.e. heart and brain). Now in my current role as the head of private banking for The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank in the Twin Cities, I've discovered that I love having measurable results, working in a high-energy team setting with ambitious, smart colleagues, and working for a company that is also highly ethical and centered on the great responsibility it has to serve its community.

I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has taken a chance on me throughout my career, and now feel compelled to "pay it forward." Here are my tips for others who are exploring the next stage of their careers:

  • Figure out what your strengths are, or what comes naturally to you, and consider where those attributes can shine. Do you have the inner drive to keep up with a job where you must make steady progress but won't have deadlines or oversight to keep you on track? Will it drive you nuts to see yourself on a rank report compared with your peers’ performance, or do you thrive when you compete?
  • Look beyond the idea of a job, and consider the daily reality of the work. If you’re an introvert, for example, don't pursue a job that is overly interactive, as it will exhaust you. And if you like to work independently and are frustrated with unnecessary rules, I wouldn’t suggest a role where your every move is scripted.
  • Further your education. I have not met anyone who regrets earning their MBA or other degree or certification. There is a thrill that comes with expanding your capacity to contribute. Take things to the next level, and enjoy the ride!

Liz Deziel is a senior vice president and head of private banking in the Twin Cities for U.S. Bank.