At ING you can wear what you want, even a suit and tie

You could almost say that today's young professionals have too many options. They have to sift through an endless number of potential career choices in many exciting industries. To make the right decision, it helps to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve both in life and in your career. The best choice is not going to fall in your lap if you do nothing – but if you know what you want and take advantage of the opportunities, you can look forward to an exciting career.

Fabian, a 35-year-old professional at ING Germany, demonstrates all of this very clearly. Young people just starting out should not feel that they are committing themselves to a “job for life” when they choose their first employer.

You've already had quite a career. You started your studies 15 years ago, and now you're Director Corporate Sector Lending in ING's corporate customer business. How did it all start? Was it always your dream to work in a bank?

No, it wasn’t. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a teacher. But, as it usually goes with childhood dream jobs, the idea eventually lost its appeal. Later, I found myself drawn towards the idea of working in the industrial sector, but without any concrete goal in mind. In the end, I decided to study accounting, controlling and financial services in Würzburg in 2006. I always wanted to learn more, and so I decided to work as a student trainee every semester. I was able to complete two six-month internships at Bosch and Deutsche Börse (the German stock exchange). As a result, during my studies I learned more than theory and practical applications: I also gained experience in industry and finance.

Why did you decide to go to the university and how did you come to ING?

During one summer break, I worked as a production assistant. After that, it was clear that I wanted to study at the college level. Then ING won me over with its trainee program. At first, I wasn't aware of the company’s strategy in Germany, but the deeper I got into the application process, the more interested and motivated I became.

What programs and other measures did the bank offer which supported you in your career?

As a trainee, I got more than I could have asked for. I was able to work in Germany and abroad, attend a wide range of seminars to improve my technical skills, and also develop my soft skills. All of that helped me a lot on a professional level, but also on a personal level. ING is an employer that encourages and supports flexible, independent work. For example, a new agreement with the Works Council makes working from home an option for all employees in the future – within the framework of operational, legal and regulatory requirements, of course. In general, the company is very responsive to individual needs. In certain departments, for example, you can choose from individual work time models. But that's not all: ING is the first agile bank in Germany. The teams work on an interdisciplinary basis and have significantly more personal responsibility, as well as more room for creativity. If a young person asked my advice, I would recommend looking for employers that offer ample opportunities for personal development and to take advantage of them.

Was there someone at the bank who encouraged you? If so, how?

There wasn't just one particular person. I've always had supervisors with high expectations, but they also appreciated my commitment and dedication. I’m also very motivated by the fact that I’ve always been shown a great deal of trust. That’s been a huge advantage in my development, because it enabled me to gain new experience early on, like when I was working as an analyst in the "Telecom, Media & Technology" sector, or TMT for short. At the beginning, only my direct manager in the department was above me. I was able to – or rather I had to – take on tasks that experienced colleagues would otherwise do in an established team. The same applies to my time as a junior after the trainee program. Here, too, I was able to take on more responsibility quite quickly and gain experience after an internal move to the Lending division, which enabled me to progress to Vice President.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your current position?

One challenge, which is also the most fun, is working with my young colleagues every day to help them in their development and accompany them along their chosen paths. The diversity makes it exciting here. All this means that I can pay it forward and give back some of what has helped me so much along my own path.

Do you have any tips or advice for young students who still have their careers ahead of them?

Basically, a career is what you make of it. Success doesn't come automatically. Even the best resume is no guarantee of success if you are not authentic and have nothing to talk about. It’s very important to pursue activities at work that you enjoy and are passionate about – this increases your chance of success significantly. I would also emphasize another aspect. A good supervisor is helpful for development, but the people you work with every day are even more important. Ideally, they share valuable knowledge and have a strong influence on your development. So I highly recommend that you learn about your future team in advance and to get in touch with your future colleagues at an early stage – regardless of whether it's for an internship or a permanent position.

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