How to Your Invest in Yourself: Hartford Funds Vice President and Managing Director of Applied Insights Julie Genjac Talks Attitude, Work Ethic, and Leadership

Julie Genjac is a Vice President and Managing Director of Applied Insights for Hartford Funds. She engages and educates financial professionals and their clients about emerging opportunities in financial services. These opportunities range from practice management and team dynamics to anticipating and preparing for long-term demographic and lifestyle changes. Julie is also the co-host of the Hartford Funds, “Human-centric Investing Podcast,” which features conversations with thought leaders from inside and outside the financial services industry.

Here is what Julie had to say when asked about attitude, work ethic, and leadership:

GenHERation®: How can you make a great first impression when meeting someone for the first time whether this is at a networking event or a job interview?

Julie Genjac: Find your authentic voice and use it. Introduce yourself, have a consistent ‘elevator message’ about who you are, what your educational or work, internship, volunteering experience, and hobbies are—whatever your life’s path has been to date and also what path(s) you hope to pursue in the future. Practice this message with people you know and trust, and ask them for open, honest feedback about it. Does it sound like you? Do the words naturally roll off your tongue? Does it sound too scripted or rehearsed? There is a difference between being prepared and having a structure to your talking points and being robotic. You don’t want to err on the robotic side of things, and your inner circle can help give you that feedback. Also, practice your handshake. This may sound simple, but the power of a great handshake with direct eye contact during an introduction can be a real differentiator in a first meeting. It can truly set you apart from others. Finally, ask questions about the person you are meeting. Genuine interest in them, their situation, their job, their family, and hobbies is also crucial. The old adage, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’ really rings true here. You will be very memorable if you ask a couple of great questions about them and their situation during your introductory conversation. They will remember you!

GenHERation®: When you join an organization either as an intern or full-time team member, what actions should you take to set yourself up for success?

Genjac: Get to know as many peoples’ names as possible and refer to them by name. People truly appreciate that and it’s a lost art. Also, try to avoid immediately offering up ideas of what you think the team or organization can do better or differently based on what you learned in class or what you did at a previous internship or job. There is a fine line between soaking up the current role and being a silent contributor as you learn the ropes. People typically don’t appreciate someone coming into a role and immediately poking holes in what’s wrong or what could be fixed on Day 1 of the new person’s arrival. If asked, that is completely different. Also, take a moment to learn, listen, and get to know people on a human level. Ask about their families or hobbies. Then, take notes. People will be shocked when you ask about their daughter, Danielle, six months from now and how her piano lessons are going. They will say, “How do you remember that?” It’s a little trick of the trade and it’s magical when you can make co-workers feel special. Relationship building takes time, but when you gather those nuggets of information from them, try to have a place to document it so that you can recall it easily later and wow them.

GenHERation®: What characteristics do the most valuable team members possess?

Genjac: They possess the ability to anticipate what their teams/managers need before they even need to ask. Somehow, they see where the work is building up, and they proactively offer to take on an additional project, or they ask if they can be an extra set of hands on a situation. They also don’t have the mentality of ‘that’s not in my roles and responsibilities and therefore I am not willing to do it.’ For example, I always say if there is a cord under the desk that needs to be plugged in and technically no one has it in their job description to plug it in, who is the person who just pops under the desk and plugs it in to keep the momentum on the project rolling? I always wanted to be the person who plugged it in just to make sure we wasted no time in debating was it my job? Was it your job? That always seemed like a waste of time and resources to me and I just thought, ‘I will plug it in and get to work and I don’t need credit for the plug in, I will just get it done.’ Those are the little things that managers notice over time. You may not think they are being noticed, but they are…it’s the little things that you do over and over, day in and day out that you can be counted on to complete without fail. You will become indispensable to your manager and to your team.

GenHERation®: How would you distinguish between a good work ethic and a great work ethic?

Genjac: To me, a good work ethic is getting the job done. Meeting expectations, doing everything expected of you. It’s like getting the A on the test. Submitting the homework on time. Raising your hand intermittently to answer questions thoughtfully in class. Basically, doing things right and on time. A great work ethic is thinking about that ‘special sauce’ that you can sprinkle on top to all of those things. How can you submit your projects early? How can you weave in an element of WOW to them without being asked? Can you try to save money on budget? Is there a way to automate a process? Are there silos that can be broken down between another department or business unit that would allow for better efficiencies, reporting, or information flow? Now, none of these are probably your ‘job’ and you have not been asked to do these things, but your mind has seen that there is a possibility and you have taken it on yourself—within allowable parameters, that is!—to explore the possibility of creating these extra connections, processes, systems, to either save money, time, or to enhance the end product. It’s the ability to ask yourself, ‘Is this the absolute best I have to give?’ versus ‘I checked the box.’ 

GenHERation®: What are three best practices you should follow when participating in virtual meetings?

Genjac: This is one of my favorite topics!  

Virtual is NOT informal. This is very important! What I mean by this is that we need to dress as if this is as important as an in-person gathering, meaning dress the part. No hoodies, baseball caps, t-shirts, and so on. Don’t show up with wet hair. Basically, treat these meetings the exact same as you would an in-person meeting. It will set you apart if you show up to virtual meetings dressed as formally as you would to in-person meetings. As an aside, I would suggest always dressing one notch above what is expected of you to networking sessions. Even if it says ‘casual,’ consider ‘business casual’ just to set the tone as to the professionalism you are putting into your own self.

Take the time to invest in your camera, lighting, the speaker, the background, the height of your setup, and practice, practice, practice! Ask a friend or family member to dial into a faux call with you to test it out during a sunny time and a cloudy time, morning and evening. Have a lamp nearby or ring lights. You never know when you may need to do an interview and if the interviewer cannot see your face clearly or if you are giving a presentation and the picture is grainy or the sound is muffled, it can be very frustrating to the person on the other end. Invest in yourself in this respect. People will notice. I have people tell me at least once a day that my virtual office background looks great, and I take that as a wonderful compliment because I worked very hard on it and I constantly adjust it and test it to ensure that it is of the utmost in quality.  

Finally, engage, engage, engage. Don’t log on, turn off your camera, mute yourself, and go do other things or multitask. Act as if you are sitting in the same room around the same table and be present. Put your phone on silent and keep it away from you. I even put my phone in a closet, so that it’s not in my eyesight. Ask questions, take notes, engage with the group you are meeting with. Don’t allow the meeting to be an afterthought. I cannot tell you how many virtual meetings I attend where I see people with the camera off and the microphone silenced, and I think, ‘I wonder if they are even in the room right now?’ Don’t allow others to ever wonder that. Be on camera. Be engaged. Be part of the meeting. Every once in a while, I will be traveling during a meeting and I will tell my group I am on the road and I will be off camera on mute because I will be in an Uber, or I will be in a hotel lobby and I will be there, but I will just be listening in because I don’t want to be a distraction. However, that is certainly the exception and not the rule. Ask yourself how present you have been during your last 10 virtual meetings. How would you grade yourself? Is there room to improve?

GenHERation®: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Genjac: Details are very important, but they aren’t the MOST important. I am a very detail-oriented person. They matter to me. At times, too much. I truly believe that the devil is in the details, and I sometimes get very wrapped up in them. I get frustrated when others are not thinking of the details. It has caused me angst over my career when others were not thinking about the details in the same way that I was. A leader of mine once shared with me that we judge people most harshly in areas in which we excel, meaning I was judging people that were not detail people harshly because I was a detail person, and it was not fair because that was not a strength of theirs and it was a strength of mine. I wish he would have shared that advice with me so many years sooner because it was a huge relief to me. It allowed me to let go of that judgment and see people for the skill sets that they do possess rather than for the ones that they do not. It also allowed me to let go of some of my detail fixation and realize details matter, but not as much as the relationships with the people around me because those relationships will ultimately be what build and solidify a career of amazing connections of fantastic friends, mentors, peers, and managers!

Julie Genjac (Jen-Jack) is a vice president and managing director of applied insights for Hartford Funds. She engages and educates financial professionals and their clients about emerging opportunities in financial services. These opportunities range from practice management and team dynamics to anticipating and preparing for long-term demographic and lifestyle changes. Julie is also the co-host of the Hartford Funds Human-centric Investing Podcast, which features conversations with thought leaders from inside and outside the financial services industry. Julie began her career at UBS PaineWebber, later becoming a wealth-management financial planner at Wells Fargo. Prior to joining Hartford Funds in 2018, Julie was a senior vice president and director of practice management and professional development at D.A. Davidson & Co., where she created and implemented professional coaching and training programs to enhance productivity and the client experience. Julie is a registered representative of Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC, and is FINRA Series 7 and 66 registered. She holds a Washington state insurance license and is a Certified Wealth Strategist®, Accredited Asset Management SpecialistSM, Registered Corporate CoachTM, and Certified Advanced Corporate Coach. Julie also completed the Securities Industry Institute® (SII) Executive Education Program through Wharton Executive Education. Julie won a Money Management Executive “Top Women in Asset Management” award in 2019. She has a passion for mentorship and educating the next generation. She provides thought leadership to GenHERation®, a network that creates life-changing opportunities for high school and college women; she received GenHERation®’s 2022 Icon Award. Julie currently lives in Kirkland, Washington, with her husband. When the self-proclaimed “Queen of Efficiency” isn’t happily checking items off her to-do list, Julie enjoys boating in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, making home improvements using her many power tools, and spending time with her niece and nephew.

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