By Tisha Kenfield
Meeting with other bankers at networking events I heard the term “accidental banker” used often and it really resonated with me. I did not grow up or go to school intending on going into the banking industry, but after falling into it I can’t imagine doing anything else. I applied for a position as a teller as a way to get out of the world of retail sales, looking for something with consistent hours and the opportunity for me to grow. When I first started, I didn’t fully understand how much depth there was in the world of banking, that it was more than just opening checking accounts and cashing checks.
I was lucky enough though to find myself working on a team and in a company that supported me and encouraged me to learn as much as possible about every aspect of banking as well as grow personally to be prepared to take the next step in my career. Without a bank and managers who believed in my potential and invested in my future, I would never have taken the first steps into building a career in the banking industry.
One constant through my five and a half years in banking was the encouragement to take on challenges that were outside of my comfort zone, with the first being networking. I have always considered myself introverted so the idea of representing my bank in a room of people much more experienced than myself was terrifying. But when I was asked to take over our branch’s spot in a local Helping Businesses Build Assets chapter as I moved into a personal banker position, I said yes.
Not having any experience with business networking, still being in my mid 20’s, and going into a room of established business owners was leaps and bounds outside of my comfort zone. It ended up being an amazing experience that helped me become more confident in not only my networking abilities, but my communication skills as well.
It took quite a few meetings to gain my footing, voice, and confidence in that room but it allowed me to open up to the possibility of other networking and leadership activities I would not have considered myself qualified for in the past. Being young and not having the professional and leadership experience I considered to be required to enter those spaces, it was eye opening and empowering to be thrown into it and understand I was able to hold my own.
As I have moved into different roles in the branch, taking on more responsibility and leadership, the impact of having connections both internally and externally was clear. Joining an internal emerging leaders group has given me opportunities to learn and grow with my colleagues and create connections across departments and regions that I may not interact with on a regular basis.
Every opportunity I have been given to grow as a leader and expand my network has taught me different lessons and helped me grow different parts of myself personally and professionally. The one that has been most impactful has been attending my first two Building Our Leaders of Tomorrow (BOLT) Summits and joining the BOLT Section Board. Being in a room with like-minded bankers who were there to learn and grow and collaborate left me energized and ready to take on new challenges.
Through all of those opportunities the consistent driver was a manager and colleagues who believed in me and pushed me to take steps that I may not have considered myself ready for, but they knew I could handle. I will forever be grateful for entering the world of banking with a company that emphasized growth and provides opportunities for both internal learning as well as encourages continued education and networking externally. Without those factors I would not be where I am today or have the confidence and drive to continue to grow in my career in the banking industry.
If I could go back and give advice to my younger self, or anyone just starting out in banking, it would be to research and partner with your manager to take advantage of every opportunity your company offers to help yourself grow. Whether it is continuing education, joining emerging leaders groups, job shadowing, or taking advantage of networking opportunities, being present and learning from others around you can be career-changing. I had limits set for myself on what I thought was capable of, but each new experience has extended those limits and challenged me to grow.
Kenfield is assistant branch manager at North Shore Bank in Appleton and member of the 2023–2024 BOLT Section Board.