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Why You Need A Mentor For Fostering Your Career In The Islamic Finance Industry?

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IF I HADN’T HAD MENTORS, I WOULDN’T BE HERE TODAY. I’M A PRODUCT OF GREAT MENTORING, GREAT COACHING.”

According to the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC), globally the Islamic financial industry requires approximately one million professionals by 2020. However, it is astonishing to note that the search for jobs in Islamic finance has never been harder at a time when demand for Islamic financial services has never been stronger. Despite the higher graduation rate from well-reputed Islamic finance education providers, each year our industry keeps losing its young foot soldiers who became demotivated and eventually followed other career paths. And the very few lucky talents who got in, have exhibited signs of anxiety about their future growth.

This is an alarming phenomenon for an infant industry that undoubtedly needs fresh blood for its growth and survival. One of the contributing factors seems to be the lack of proper mentorship facility and career counselling. Successful leaders and productive professionals understand that success is not a one-man show and that mentors can help keep their businesses innovative and relevant. During an interview with CBC, Bill Gates credited Warren Buffet for teaching him how to deal with tough situations and how to think long-term. Similarly, Zuckerberg praised his inspiring mentor Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs used to go on a weekly walk with Bill Campbell, the Silicon Valley coach, who also mentored Google’s founders.

Every individual carries the seeds of greatness within himself, but you need someone to trace the identity of the seeds so it would be planted in the appropriate region and weather for optimal growth. A mentor is like a sculptor who analyses his mentee with a humble conviction that a unique and beautiful piece of art already exists within the stone, and his job is only to unveil it. A mentor sees unexplored treasury of talent and skills in your DNA and helps you to navigate your deserved destination. In the Islamic finance profession, the need for mentorship arises due to the following reasons:

RELIGIOUS GUIDANCE

Financial career revolves around money management and wealth creation, a profession which often cultivates the seeds of greed and materialism. As stated by Robert Rolih – author of The Million Dollar Decision, “lack of ethics is so ingrained in the financial industry that they are not even aware of it anymore. It’s just business as usual for them.” The global hub of financial services – the Wall Street is known to be driven by only two emotions: fear and greed. It is exemplified in the “Get Rich Quick” mentality that prevails among the finance professionals.

On the contrary, Islamic finance professionals should be driven by Islamic norms and ethical values of benevolence, altruism, and humility. A mentor would purify your heart by being mindful of The Creator and the Islamic worldview that envisages the purpose of life, Allah’s absolute ownership and the importance of life hereafter. A mentor will remind you that earning money is a result and not the purpose of being in the Islamic finance industry. Islamic heritage reveals a common practice among great Muslim rulers, leaders, and businessmen to visit spiritual leaders for guidance and well-wishes. It is evidenced in the relationship between Salahuddin Ayyubi and his mentor Asadu Din, and Sultan Mehmet Fatih and Molla Gurani.

MOTIVATION

Financial career is notoriously associated with stress and depression; which are widely known as “burnout”. It involves mental, emotional or physical exhaustion frequently accompanied by an overwhelming sense of pessimism, self-doubt, reduced creativity, and loss of personal identity. Alexandra Mitchell, an ex-investment banker turned assistant professor of management and organisation at the University of California spent years following young bankers and concluded that burnout peaks in years four to six due to punishing schedules and tightening regulations. The eFinancial Career Satisfaction Survey reveals people who work in middle and back-office jobs like risk, compliance, and operations are generally as likely to be burnt out as their counterparts in ‘front office’ banking jobs like M&A, sales, trading, and research. Islamic financial industry is by no means an exception.

To combat such psycho-social disorders, you need a mentor who had coped with it through successful technics. Apart from psychological treatment, a mentor would educate you about the noble purpose of being in the financial industry, i.e. elimination of riba-based financial system by establishing value-based financial intermediation, a source of mercy and justice for humanity. Since this is an honourable cause, Allah set will certainly help as He promised “and those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right” (29:69).

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Novel in its origin, the term ‘work-life balance’ refers to the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. It describes the balance that a working individual need between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Unfortunately, the finance industry is infamous for being one of the most difficult sectors to maintain a decent work-life relationship. Advanced communication tools make workers accessible around the clock where fears of job loss incentivise longer hours. Research shows that the compounding stress from the never-ending workday damages relationships, health and overall happiness, resulting in a divorce rate of 34% amongst finance professionals.

As part of the well-connected global financial system, Islamic finance professionals are not immune from the hazard of imbalance work-life bond. To curtail this risk, a mentor would educate you about a beautiful Prophetic narration “you owe a duty to your Creator, you owe a duty to your body, you owe a duty to your family; so, you should give to everyone his due”. This narration emphasises the prioritising of equilibrium between career and life by implementing time management strategies, analysing your to-do list and cutting out tasks that have little to no value. It is certainly unwise to get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

CAREER COUNSELLING

With the rise of Fintech in the fourth industrial revolution; automation, blockchain, artificial intelligence and robot technology are disrupting demand and nature of existing jobs in the financial industry. According to the World Economic Forum Report (2018) on the future of jobs, administrative tasks in the financial services and investors sector are set to be significantly replaced by machine labour. While today machines and algorithms perform 36% of the collective hours spent on this task, by 2022 this share is projected to rise to 61%. Employers are most likely to signal the planned adoption of humanoid robots in the period up to 2022 in the financial industry.

The fourth industrial revolution is equally impacting the job market in Islamic finance. Islamic digital anking, pool management automation, robot Shari’a auditor and advisor, Islamic crowdfunding and adoption of smart contract and blockchain technology require a new set of talents. To be relevant in the era of disruptive technologies, the Qurān has given us a fundamental principle of resourcefulness and being productive “as for the foam (on the water), it passes away (as) scum, and as for what benefits mankind, remains in the earth” (13:17).

A mentor would guide you for a comprehensive workforce strategy to meet the challenges of this new era of accelerating change and innovation. In order to make you relevant to the emerging job market, the mentor will also train you for the required job skills in the digital era such as emotional intelligence, cognitive fallibility, critical thinking, people management and effective decision-making, etc. For Islamic finance students, career counselling helps them in finalising the career path according to their interest and subsequently choosing the right courses and educational institutions.

CONCLUSION

One of the oldest ways to pass on wisdom and knowledge from one generation of professionals to another has been through mentoring. Its effectiveness in the financial sector is proved by research confirming that mentoring increases managerial productivity in employees by 88%. The above facts emphasise a dire need for the revival of the classical Islamic tradition of mentorship in the Islamic finance industry. It will serve as a source of strategic assistance and confidence for the students and practitioners in the era of the fourth industrial revolution where various existing job roles and skills are at the verge of extinction. In the battle of work-life balance, ambitions and ground realities, and during the conflict of materialism and spirituality; having an experienced mentor is like sailing through a storm toward the shore in the guidance of a lighthouse. A lot of professionals have climbed the ladder of success not because they thought they could, but because someone else thought they could.

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