Lessons for my younger self: what I wish I’d known 20 years ago
Sometimes I look back at my career and can’t quite believe where it has taken me. I feel very lucky of course – I have had some fantastic experiences and met some amazing people – but I know my career is also one that I worked very hard for and, at times, fought for. I look now at the next generation of women coming into the financial services industry and I am excited for the opportunities they will have and, frankly, relieved that some of the barriers I was met with will no longer hinder their potential.
Having said that, it would be a mistake to pretend that there are no longer any challenges at all facing women in the industry. There are so many lessons I wish I could share with my younger self now that I have the dual benefit of experience and perspective, but perhaps an even better undertaking is to share them here for the benefit of others.
If just a single woman embarking on a financial services career finds these lessons useful, I will consider it time well spent.
- Ask “Why not me?” instead of “Why me?” – I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in finance in London – this is despite knowing nothing at all about finance and having never lived in London! I didn’t attend a school where students were encouraged to go to university let alone consider finance as a career path. Despite this, I worked hard and secured a role at a Big Four firm which gave me the springboard I needed to develop and provided an array of career opportunities once I secured my qualification as a Chartered Accountant. You can achieve anything if you are prepared to work hard and learn, so never doubt yourself – nearly every woman I meet suffers from imposter syndrome to some degree. You are more than capable of not just fulfilling your role, but learning, developing and excelling, so don’t be afraid to take a few risks
- Study, Study, Study – Doing any exams early with time still on your side will give you much more freedom and flexibility when you really need it. My graduate training programme consisted of 2 years of study and exams combined with work and an extra year to ‘time qualify.’ When I passed my Chartered Accountancy exams 2 years on I then took the unusual step of embarking on my Chartered Tax exams as well. This meant that 3 years into my graduate role, I was a fully fledged Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser, which was rare even at Deloitte. I’d covered all possible bases from an exam perspective and it massively boosted my belief in my abilities, giving me the confidence and clout to make better career decisions whilst I was still relatively young
- Find a mentor who challenges you – Your mentor could be somebody you work with or somebody you admire from a professional perspective outside of your workplace. Their role should be to challenge and guide you, so don’t be afraid of picking someone with different viewpoints to yourself. It may be comforting to surround yourself with likeminded people who will reinforce your own beliefs but it is likely you will already get this from your professional social circle. A mentor who brings a completely different point of view may help you see opportunities you would otherwise have missed
- Be yourself and speak up!– Financial services has been homogenous for far too long so don’t change yourself to fit in. Over the years I have frequently been stood in a room full of people who look and sound the same with the same backgrounds and social interests. I have found that, instead of conforming, things are much more productive and respectful when I am openly myself. Never sit quietly and assume that everyone has already considered your point of view. If you have something to say, say it and do so with conviction!
- Work hard but make time for the important things – I am a strong believer in giving everything you have to a role irrespective of your grade or salary. If you are dedicated you will, at some point, receive recognition and progression – either inside your company or outside your company when someone poaches you for their team. Bear in mind however that ‘burnout’ is real. It is all too easy to be consumed by seemingly ‘urgent’ day to day tasks and before you know it, years have passed you by. Make space for the less frequent but equally important things that will let you take stock, aid your professional development and ultimately propel you forward in your career
- Pay it forward and champion others – I have spent my career mentoring, training and promoting the skills and capabilities of more junior team members. This has been incredibly rewarding and some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned have come from helping others navigate challenges or transitions on their own career path. It is a joy to watch someone talented fulfil their potential and it has the added benefit of helping to establish a loyal, competent and happy working environment with your team. With a workforce here at One Four Nine Group which is 52% female, this is a tradition I look forward to continuing as the business grows
Article published by IFA Magazine, Sue Whitbread, here page.
Gabrielle Beaumont, Managing Director, One Four Nine Group
Find out more about Gabrielle here.