5 Tips (“OLIVE”) to Start a Career if You’re Uncertain Where to Begin

Somebody: “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”

You: “Hmmm…” 🤔 🤔 🤔

It’s daunting to hear this question, right? Especially, when you don’t know what you want to be and how to even start a career. All of this is absolutely normal and many people experience this! But you have to start somewhere.

It has been a rocky ride for me. I come from a family background of business and so in my early age, there were many times I used to visit office sites while accompanying my family or was surrounded by “the business” conversations. This made me interested in how different things were created, whether it was the fabrics, threads, cotton, bricks or metal products.

But I began my “official” work experience with a customer-facing role as a general assistant at Holiday Inn Express hotel for two weeks on GCSE placement. During this time, I was working at the reception, doing financial management, assisting the sales manager in back office with their tasks or helping out with waitressing and housekeeping duties when needed.

Then while I was still a school student, I started writing application cover letters and went through interview rounds to achieve work experience at HQ of leading banks, which included Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs and HSBC. This allowed me to work shadow professionals from Investment Banking, Finance and Technology as well as enhanced my employability skills by delivering presentations and participating in several interactive sessions. (Moreover, an employee remembered me for all good reasons when I came back after a year for my second time work experience at Barclays!)

Banking work experience days

In between the banking insight days, I carved out an opportunity to get experience in accounts at ibis. Even though this opportunity developed my analytical skills, I quickly realised that I didn’t enjoy accounting.

During my penultimate university year, I tried temporary retails sales assistant position and also gained experience in Tech through casual paid jobs at university campus. After that I did three months of voluntary summer internship at Attend as a Research Intern, where I started liking research and analysis. Attend offered me an extension, however, I declined it as I wanted to focus on my last year of university without any work placements.

Towards the midway of my last university year, I started my job hunt by applying at many firms for a Tech role and in addition, I was getting contacted by recruiters on LinkedIn. But like many others, I faced some application rejections too –

“Congratulations for reaching so far in the recruitment process. We are sorry to tell you we have identified the final candidates and as a result we will no longer be able to consider your application. But please bear in mind that the role you have applied for is extremely popular and only a limited number of candidates got to this stage of the process, so you should be pleased you reached so far.”

In the meantime through winning an “Individuals that stood out” award for one of my university project on mobile user experience, I was offered the opportunity to apply for an UX&D internship at ORM. (ORM actually came in university to judge and award only for “best team project” – but I stood out to them!)

However, I didn’t want to do UX&D as I enjoyed the requirements related modules at university and my past work experiences in analysis more so I finally gave one of the LinkedIn recruiter a go who had contacted me for a Junior Business Analyst role. This landed me a job at StreamAMG, part of PA Media Group. I worked there for a year and half with media, government and betting clients ranging from BBC, European Council, DWP and William Hill to many others, and got exposure into analysis, account management, project management and tenders.

A year and few months ago, following that I got head-hunted by a hiring manager on LinkedIn, which led me to my current job in Tech as Junior Business Analyst at News UK, where I get to work for the Sun, the Times, talkSPORT and DreamTeam.

Tanisha at News UK (p.s. the wind doesn’t usually cooperate outside this building #take5823749)

Along with my day job at News, I founded SHEisRARE in the 2020 lockdown summer as my side-project with purpose. It has given me the experience as a web developer, content strategist and writer, designer, social media manager, public speaker, events and partnerships director. (Yes I know, you must be wondering how do I manage it all – I just make it happen!)

I’m a curious person and want to try out different things. Frankly like a sponge, I want to absorb everything! Looking ahead, I’ve my eyes set to grow as a Business Analyst, leader and do more with SHEisRARE. I remind myself that I’m on a path to better things. 🤞

Here’s my top 5 tips (“OLIVE“) to start a career:

1. Open

No career path comes with a manual. Be open to taking temporary, unpaid or paid internships. Take courses or get certified to build your interest.

2. Link

Use your network of family, friends and mentors to help find you a work placement. Also create your LinkedIn account to assist with job searching.

3. Initiate

Take initiative and get in touch with recruiters. Try starting your side project.

4. Variety

Go for a wide and varied work experience to help you understand what do you enjoy and what do you want to be doing.

5. Explore

When you’re new in the career world, your focus should be to explore and learn. Regardless of the field or position, you will gain some valuable transferable skills.

The experience is what matters when you are at the beginning of your career. So give it time, take small steps in the right direction and stay motivated, don’t give up! Good Luck, you can make it happen and start a career!

~ Tanisha Sharma (Founder of SHEisRARE)

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