Skip to main content

Best advice I ever received: Don’t worry if it’s the right job until you get it

Dina Vardouniotis, vice-president and general manager of the Toronto branch of JPMorgan Chase

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Dina Vardouniotis is vice-president and general manager of the Toronto branch of JPMorgan Chase.

In the morning, I zip out the door. I'd like to say that I sit around the table and have breakfast with my husband and two boys, but I just want to get to work.

My days are not what you think: Like most senior people at the bank, my days are filled with tons of meetings and conference calls. There is a misconception that we sit around all day strategizing and planning but a lot of the job is just managing relationships. When I interview people, I always hear that they want to "do more strategy" but for the most part, you need to apply that strategic thinking to everything you do.

Story continues below advertisement

The toughest part about all the meetings is switching gears. I can be booked every half an hour or hour on different topics, and even if those topics aren't intellectually challenging, they still require my focus and attention.

Growing up, what I really wanted to do was go into fashion design. I would never have imagined going into financial services. My parents owned a restaurant in the Beaches [neighbourhood of Toronto], so I grew up helping every day after school, waiting tables, washing dishes. I started helping out when I was nine. Years later, while I was working at CIBC as director of retail and small business lending, my mom would still call me to help out if she was short-staffed on a Sunday. It instilled in me an incredible work ethic.

My big break: My first career was working in advertising. I got my big break at Cossette, where the hiring manager said to me, "If you can work in a restaurant, you can totally work at an ad agency." He used to be a chef.

My big fall: Two weeks before my own "big, fat, Greek wedding," I was laid off [by Cossette]. It was 1991, when the unemployment rate was over 10 per cent in Canada, so there were literally tens of people in multiple waves being laid off at the company because clients stopped spending.

I became self-employed for two years, but then everything dried up. I call that experience my career displacement. I was uprooted from what I thought I knew. It wasn't only my work, but my social life in that environment that I never wanted to leave. I literally had three sticks of furniture in an apartment and when I came back from my honeymoon, I had to start my life from scratch.

My comeback: I called 20 people I knew and one contact – the person who laid me off – told me about an opportunity at CIBC [Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce]. It made me realize that relationships are everything. I discovered that I was highly analytical and had a passion for data I never knew about. I never had a master plan to work at a bank. I just loved the work.

My next career hiccup: I chose to leave CIBC for family reasons, and it was the hardest decision because I thought my career was over. I thought. "My God, I'll never work again." It was more frightening than being laid off. Eventually, a referral got me into Citi [Citigroup], working in the credit card industry. You can choose to walk away and come back. It doesn't have to be forever.

Story continues below advertisement

The best advice I ever received was don't worry about whether it's the right job for you until you get it. A woman I worked for once said that if you can get excited about 75 per cent of your job, that's great. There is always 25 per cent of the job that's mundane and administrative. That's the truth that people don't talk about. The worst part of my job is administrative stuff, approving invoices, doing training that doesn't seem to apply. Those things are my Achilles heel.

The good news is that I didn't start my career thinking that I would get the 30-year anniversary gold watch from a company. Never get too comfortable.

As told to Leah Eichler

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter