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I remember it as if it was yesterday, when I received a contract from Ernst & Young (EY) almost 10 years ago. Initially I felt excited, pleased and surprised. I knew how proud my family was that I was about to work for such a prestigious brand, a top 4 accountancy firm. I remember saying to myself: “I’ve made it.”
On my first day, my feelings were so different, I was suddenly nervous, anxious and questioning whether I would be ready for this. Looking back now, I realise there are a number of things I would do differently, knowing what I now know.
Since leaving EY, my career has seen me work in places like San Francisco and South Africa. I have navigated a career from a management consultant to a founder and most recently an investor in tech. There are 4 things I would love to share that I wish I knew at the start of my career.
Companies used to call me ‘hard to reach,’ the truth is that they didn’t try hard enough to reach me.
Growing up in Tottenham, Haringey, one of the most multicultural wards in Europe where over 90 nationalities exist and 300 languages are spoken, I was moulded by diversity and inclusion from a young age. I realised this was a super power at work because I could connect and form relationships with people from different backgrounds and share a diversity of thought based on my lived experience. In the workplace, I quickly realised that we are all responsible for making the work environment more diverse and inclusive. It starts with us turning up as our most authentic self.
Be your most authentic self from Day 1 as it will enable you to do your best work.
Following your curiosity leads to learning at the edge of your comfort zone. From going backpacking across South America in 2010 to joining a new ventures team in San Francisco in 2015, I have always sought out opportunities that stretch the boundaries of my ambition to grow. Career acceleration comes from sharing your ambitions and personal goals at work and understanding how work enables you to achieve those goals, whilst you add value to the company you serve. It is a mutually beneficial win-win relationship.
Regardless of your job title, we are all in the relationship building business.
One of the most profound lessons my father taught me was that we are all in the relationship building business. I urge all apprentices to build a personal board of advisors. A few mentors and key people who you can ask the questions that make you feel silly, like: “what does HR do?” or: “what are great books or podcasts to listen to in order to prepare for this role?”
It is important to build relationships with your peers at work. In the next 5-10 years, they will all grow in different directions and hold different careers. Linkedin is a great way to stay connected, or even a small whatsapp group or monthly email update to each other.
The first page of Google is now your CV.
Finally, think about your personal brand on and offline. When a prospective employer, colleague or even people you will have meetings with hear your name, the first thing they will do is google you. When they google you, what comes up? Social links from twitter? Instagram and Facebook? Does it represent the brand you want to be known for? If the first page of Google was your CV, does it represent you well?
My new book, Breaking into New Careers, shares insight on the four points above and how you can begin to position your personal brand better on and offline. If you want to learn more about it, please check it out.
Andy Ayim is an author, business builder and investor who has worked at the intersection of startups, diversity and tech across the last decade. In 2018, he was named in the FT as a Top 10 Leader in Tech and has a passion for creating pathways from low income communities into tech.
@andyshvc (Twitter & Instagram)