Welcome to part 2 of the Employability Diary with Clare Adams. Clare is our Careers and Employability Service Manager and, in a nutshell (among many other responsibilities), one of the key people, who make sure we are all looked after and everything is running smoothly at the Careers department.
If you haven’t read part 1, where Clare shares a bit about herself and her student experience, please have a read on here. For other posts as part of the Employability Diary blog series, please click here.
And in this post, we focus on personal motivations, career progression and excellent tips on succeeding. So, grab a cuppa, make yourself comfortable and read further!
Hi, Clare, following on from the excellent tips you previously shared on making the best out of your university years, it’d be great to now focus more on your career development. So I was wondering, what motivates you to succeed? Throughout undertaking all these various experiences, what has kept you kind of pushing through?
I’ve just always liked to do a good job. That’s all that it really is. I get that as a family trait. I have to feel like I’ve done the best I can; and I need to make sure that everyone around me is okay. I don’t like to let people down.
That’s great! Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be afraid to approach employers directly (e.g. sending your CV via email, connecting on LinkedIn or face-to-face networking at some events) and to experiment by doing different things. Sometimes you just have to throw yourself out there and see what works for you and what doesn’t.
💡 Clare’s extra piece of advice: And I think if you’re the kind of person, who tries to be everything to everyone, you just have to learn to accept that you’re still going to let people down whether you mean to or not; or some people just aren’t going to like you (for some weird chemistry reasons or whatever) and that’s okay.
I completely agree with that – it’s all about meaning well and giving it your best, right! Linking back to your motivation, how do you manage through tough times? What are some things or ‘rituals’ that you do to relax?
One thing that I’ve definitely gotten better at throughout the years is knowing what things help cleanse my mind at the end of the day. And for me these include going to the gym, meditating in the morning (if I can) even if it is just for 10 minutes and trying to eat healthily. In the end, it’s about recognising and understanding what helps you to turn off your brain and what keeps you motivated; but also putting some distance between you and things, whether it’s physical distance or mental distance. Kind of decluttering and getting some perspective on things because it can feel hugely emotional and important at the time, but when you’ve been able to step away from it, you can see it more clearly. But that is very different for everybody as an individual, so spending the time to kind of understand that about yourself, I think is really important.
This is some useful advice, Clare. So what’s your daily mindset like and has it changed compared to your student years?
I think my daily mindset is always a little bit about who am I going to meet today, what am I going to learn from that person or how I can help them; and how am I going to find a way to communicate or work with that person to move something forward, especially in relation to work. I think for me it’s always about people and my days are based around people or, on some days, the lack of them.
💡 Clare’s extra piece of advice: Sometimes all you have to do is spend a day or a few hours where you don’t speak to any people, but need a good book and perhaps some fictional characters instead.
Sounds good. Speaking of books, what’s your favourite book at the moment? Any recommendations?
The brain: The Story of You and Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain by David Eagleman – those are my favourite two books that I’ve read probably in the last couple of years just because I’m fascinated by people; and I think so many of us carry pre-existing kind of stereotypes about why certain people are the way they are; and actually looking into the sort of biology of it alongside the sociology and psychology of it is really interesting; and it makes you rethink things and look at them in a fresh light as well.
I absolutely love these books, too! My next question is: how do you deal with negative energy and self-sabotaging thoughts?
In addition to what I said earlier about putting distance and knowing what relaxes your brain, it’s also about utilising your network of people that can help pull you out of negativity. Personally, I also find that keeping a journal really helps with processing difficult emotions and thoughts. For instance, I write things down about how the day’s gone or how I am feeling in that particular time because I think writing something down may help you to realise how daft it is and it enables you to look back on things you’ve written in the past.
💡 Clare’s extra piece of advice: Seeing something in written form almost separates you from the feeling to some extent and helps you think about how you would advise a friend, who was feeling that way.
Interesting! You mentioned a little bit about your previous roles before, would you please share with us some highlights and lowlights throughout your career progression?
Well, I have an example that is both a highlight and a lowlight. I used to work for a branding agency, which I loved the ethos of and the work that they did. But I hadn’t quite worked out what my values were and what I wanted to spend time doing back then. I remember sitting on a 2-hour conference call with an American legal team talking about the amount of liquid you could show on this piece of packaging for one of our clients. I was sat there with 8 other people and it must have cost everybody a fortune to be there, but I just … didn’t care. I like fully disengaged with my job. I just realised at that point in time that as much as I think I was quite good in that area of work and liked how organised you needed to be and how client and customer focused you needed to be, I didn’t care enough about that field of work. So it was a lowlight, but also a highlight at the same time because I realised that I’d gotten myself into a bit of a hole and that I didn’t like this kind of work, I needed to get back into education, which is when I started to work for the University of Westminster.
Oh, wow! Can I just say that it’s admirable how it seems that you’ve always been able to kind of just throw yourself out there to see what you like and what you dislike. Next question, tips on sustaining your career?
I think my best tip really is being open to continually learning for the rest of your life. The moment you think that you’ve learned everything about a particular industry or area or a job is the moment you’ve got it wrong. And also recognising you are going to make mistakes on the way and learning from them to do better in the future.
Right! And how do you deal with imposter syndrome (or this mind-trap that prevents people from believing in themselves)?
Again, it’s about recognising I don’t know everything, but also having people that I can talk to – like mentors and people in, perhaps similar positions. Every step up that you take, you’re going to be a little bit out of your comfort zone and feel a little bit like you shouldn’t be there; I think it’s how you deal with that pressure and being honest with yourself and other people that you don’t know everything and we’re all learning together really. It may not always be the right thing to do because people look for different answers and have different knowledge, but I’d rather deal with honesty.
💡 Clare’s top piece of advice: It’s about being honest with yourself and others that you don’t know everything and we’re all learning together.
We’re all learning together… I like that. What are your thoughts/tips on pushing through stereotypes and breaking the glass ceiling?
Honestly, for me it’s been a mixture of luck and the fact that I have always just tried my best to work as hard as I can and learn as much as I can; and seeing everything that I’ve done (even if it was something that I hated) as a learning opportunity. We’re lucky that we work in quite an inclusive environment in a way, so I think it would be much more difficult for somebody, who’s going into a different profession…
It’s also about having some kind of a role model, about finding people, who you can see yourself in, perhaps who are a little bit further ahead; and it doesn’t have to be someone who looks like you or comes from your background or is in the same area, just somebody you can relate to. Whether they are someone you have access to, someone who’s working in another industry or writes books / does TED talks, or even a fictional character. Try to use your role models as kind of like anchor points to pull yourself forward, especially on the days when you feel like you can’t do this anymore. But equally, talking to people, who are early on in their career, and sharing their enthusiasm for things. Harnessing both ends of that path to try and keep yourself somewhere in between the two.
For example, I’ve just started mentoring one of our students and it’s really fascinating. She is a young woman, who’s just come back to studying and has two kids. And I think she’s amazing, the fact that she can juggle studying with raising up her children is amazing! Especially when often the difficult thing with women is that a lot of them, who are senior, don’t often have families, so how do you balance that? Then again, it could be a male, who perhaps has a similar mindset. Point is, we all have our privileges and problems to some extent, so I think recognising that is really important…
A big thank you to Clare for taking the time from her busy schedule to share such excellent advice and examples of good practice!
Watch this space for more stories from University of Westminster staff and students in the Employability Diary blog series. And for any careers support, please contact us, your dedicated Careers and Employability Service team!