(8) Dealing with the mental struggles within

The one consistent trend that I’ve noticed has been the mental strain from pressured unforeseen situations. This consistency existed even before university during my school years all the way up to my current working life post graduation. Whether this was working through my GCSEs, university exams or even all the way through to social pressures faced within my friendship circles among groups both within and outside of work. But I was clueless even during the first few years after university in tackling this. 

At this point I will give major credit to my fiancée who introduced this new concept podcasts to me. At first I thought what worth would I get from listening to people talk to each other about random topics. If anything I would probably find it annoying, wouldn’t I? But hidden within this question I found my answer. i.e the topic. 

I started listening to various random podcasts at first none of which really sparked my attention. However once I started listening to topics surrounding mental wellbeing, I found these to be incredible. How have I never given this a chance before! What I didn’t see coming was through just listening to these podcasts I was able to visualise my challenges from a completely different perspective. It was definitely eye opening.  

PROGRESSION POINTER 15: Give something new a try, but more importantly really give it a chance! I was ready to give up on podcasts until I found a topic that really reached out to me and has helped me to date. These sort of things you can’t be taught and will only learn from experiencing it yourself. Once I found it, it was inspirational beyond belief. 

One example of a truly inspirational podcaster I listen to is Jay Shetty; some of you who may have already heard of. He focuses on why we do certain things in a certain manner and really asks questions that most of us avoid in our day to day life. He himself took a totally different career path by starting in the corporate world for a very short period but then went to live as a monk for three years to develop his mental strength! (disclaimer: don’t go live as a monk just because of this post! ). He chose to focus on skills that will improve his outlook on life. 

This was truly inspiring as I’ve always seen people around me not take action when the mental pressures start taking a toll! But by action I mean the little steps; such as listening to a podcast, reading a blog like this, talking about your own experiences, helping others in your situation! These are all steps to help ease the pressures we feel in uncontrollable difficult circumstances.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I decided to hold a presentation to Company 5 on stress management and work-life balance. I found by just speaking my mind and expressing my views on this topic to be therapeutic. This in effect sparked many one-to-one conversations, including conversations with partners at the firm which I found to be both shocking and inspiring. Shocking as it hit me how wide of a scope these issues span throughout a lifetime, but inspiring as I was given the opportunity to hear about their personal journey too and actions they are currently taking as well as in the past.

This post has focussed more on mental wellbeing rather than my literal career journey. But the intention has been to reach out to individuals who have faced similar mental burdens that students do too in completely different contexts. Podcasts have been one of my true mental medicines, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one!

My career path thus far has involved a lot of balancing post graduation exams with work and social wellbeing, but it has been training my mental strength that has been core to my success to date.

In my next post I will dive into how I managed to complete the ACA chartered accounting qualification whilst balancing this with my social life, life priorities and relationships – utilising this strength !


(7) A whole new perception of the working world

The move to the medium sized accountancy practice (Company 5) helped me gain an insight in working for a close knit company of around 60 people. The key words here are close knit!  

To date I have never worked for a company where on a personal level people communicate, chat, have a laugh – but on all levels of the hierarchy! When going to the pub for a drink, the entire firm is invited and that invite can be sent by any single individual. This welcoming nature was extremely attractive especially, I had never really worked in a company which chose to remove the segregation of various cliques from a social perspective.

PROGRESSION POINTER 13: When joining a new workplace, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues for a social catch up! Whether it be drink, coffee, lunch. The most important way to integrate into a company isn’t by impressing people by the work you do, it’s the way you interact with people on a personal level!

QUICK FLASHBACK KEY TAKEAWAY: If I was to look back over the past years since graduation, not a single memory that I cherish involves impressing someone with the work I did (…which doesn’t mean I didn’t!). The memories I’ve taken away revolve around the people, especially those who have chosen to make an effort. i.e people who have made an effort to get to know me, how I would like to work and my growth – rather than the individuals who use you as only a resource.

At this firm I have seen both extremes of this if I’m honest. On the negative side I have worked for individuals who get distressed when their method of teaching is not effective, but on the much more positive side there are those individuals who you give you the chance but more importantly, confidence to express your views and listen. These are the people, (one person in particular at this firm who I shall give MASSIVE credit to being Stuart!), who you as a person would love to work for. i.e a great leader.

As I have grown throughout my years thus far, my biggest takeaway is to be an inspiration to those both junior as well as senior. This reminds me of a presentation I did at this firm on ‘work life balance and stress management’ which I will always take away as a great achievement. It enabled me to reach out to those individuals who had decades more ‘work-experience’ than I had but were still facing similar issues as many of us!

PROGRESSION POINTER 14: Whatever stage of life those around you are in life, every individual is still learning to be better. There will be aspects that you understand which others may not (even whilst as a student!) and I don’t mean just from a technical point of view in whatever career path you take. I emphasise on the importance of teaching people to handle themselves, correct their mistakes but most importantly the significance of remaining positive!

There have been many personal struggles I have faced both through university and thereafter, but this turned into a key strength for me as I have learnt how to deal with this much quicker. However there are many who have never really experienced this, potentially even your friends who have never dealt with mental hardship. Therefore take your experiences as a massive positive in the long run and don’t look at just the short run.

In my next blog (which I am excited about!) I will dive into what inspired me to do a presentation on such a soft skills topic mentioned above, via the power of motivational podcasts!





(6) The hardest step back to improve my ‘life CV’

It had been three years since graduation and I would never have thought I would be in a situation where I had the pleasure of working in 4 different companies, 4 different industries with many memories to take away. At this point I was extremely grateful for the years of experience I had already obtained, boosted by the comparison to what I have accomplished since university. This comparison leans more towards my strength of mind compared to my outlook on the working world back then.

PROGRESSION POINTER 11: However this may come across, click the pause button on your life! It’s crucial to just take a step back and understand what you have accomplished and what challenges you have overcome just to be able to show appreciation to yourself and maintain that motivation.

I had now reached a point where I was contemplating a move within the same industry but into a new role entirely. In all honesty, this was an extremely scary thought at the time as my willingness to move out of a tax related role to an accounting based role felt like taking a step back, especially as I was going back into a graduate level role three years after graduating! Did I just waste the last 3 years of my life learning technical skills for a job that I wasn’t even going to continue with?

Reflection was key to really understand my situation here. I have developed my softer skill sets and my perception of various potential career paths all alongside the working world of finance.

Here’s a VERY brief summary of my key learning points to this point:

  • If I had hadn’t joined Company 1 I would have never learnt how much small appreciation from one single individual will go a long way!
  • If I hadn’t joined Company 2 (supermarket) I would have never learnt the importance of having a positive, happy and motivating environment with colleagues who love to have fun, in order to make work not seem like work.
  • If I hadn’t joined Company 3 (data analyst) I would have never learnt that…pure data analysis was just not for me…simple as!
  • If I hadn’t joined Company 4 (big four firm) I would never have learnt the importance of maintaining your ‘human nature’ of caring no matter how senior you grow within an organisation.

PROGRESSION POINTER 12: Every single day in your life is something to add to your ‘life CV’. There are so many features that companies are looking for that would never make it onto your actual CV, which are again not ever mentioned at school or university at least from my experience! Remember that people are just people, and if you show that you are real when going to interviews, you’ll find the company and role sooner or later that fits you.

My next move was to Company 5, a medium sized accountancy practice, where I had learnt a LOT about people and the importance of a close community, to be covered in my next blog post…

(5) Life network

There have been many occasions in a working environment where I’ve been put in situations that I cannot fully understand the work at hand. It was in these circumstances that I really understood people’s true personalities and values; those who took time out of their own busy schedule to lend a hand, compared to those whose focus was on their own careers, which put them in a slightly different spotlight.

The biggest surprise for me is witnessing first hand the dog-eat-dog world within a working environment. Not going into specific details, as personal goals are definitely healthy for any individual, but when it comes at a cost to another individual in a way that could be avoided – it just isn’t worth the knock on your own conscience!

These experiences have both hurt me in the short run but also opened my eyes in the long run in ways I would’ve never imagined when it comes to the sort of environment I want to work and live my life in. Within my first weeks at the big four firm (Company 4), the individuals who either provided their assistance without a second thought, or interacted with me in a non-work conversation –  I knew I would maintain these strong bonds in the long run.

A partner at this firm who always comes to mind – on the very first working day he popped by my desk, learnt my name (and has never forgotten it once – especially for such a full name as long as mine!) and had a wonderful, totally non-work related conversation. This was strangely the most memorable and happiest interaction with a new colleague I’ve ever had. This is because I felt his ‘human side’ straight away instead of a ‘robotic, working side’ from the very first day. This not only helped me understand the people I want to work with, but also the type of individuals who I wanted leading, teaching and mentoring me.

LIFE GOAL 1: As soon as I experienced this encounter, the real lesson I wanted to learn was how to become a successful individual like him from a career perspective, but more importantly how he maintained the ability to grow his ‘human side’ to all his employees the real meaning of success!

Not only this partner but there were numerous other colleagues who were similar, in particular within my own client teams! However there were also a lot who were not and that’s just something out of my control. But what was in my control is who I chose to aspire to and those whose personalities who I did not want rubbing off on me – I guess this was the benefit of working in a large organisation.

I’ve talked about the individuals who have taught me a lot about the real meaning of success, however in my next blog I will talk more about the reason for leaving this role for my current role.

I was in a very comfortable environment so why did I leave? Because that was the problem…

(4) The people who surround you

Firstly I would like to apologise for the major delay since my last post, however I am now in a position to continue sharing my story! As an update, I currently am working at a smaller 60 employees firm (Company 5) and no longer at the big four (Company 4)!

To backtrack a little from my last post, having reached a point just as I had imagined back at university, on a great training scheme to complete my ATT (tax qualification), I was finally thinking that all this hard work was finally paying off. Not only was it paying off, but I have gained a significant amount of experience throughout and a clearly unique path. Both pre and post graduation, the most frustrating situation to be in was to continuously compare myself to other people in my intake. However, looking at it now I can see that my alternative path leading up to a training scheme at a large firm has brought me great experience, friends and exposure to many personalities.

PROGRESSION POINTER 9: Whatever route you find yourself following after graduation, never compare yourself to your peers from school, university or even family members. Follow the path you set yourself, setting your own goals and targets as if there is no-one else in the world to compare yourself to.

At the big four firm (Company 4) I was initially overwhelmed by the ‘campus’ feeling which soon turned to be a wonderful feeling after settling in. It was incredible to see the structures that were in place to ensure training continuously developed for employees of all levels.

I’m not going to sit here and write about how to survive and get through work within a corporate environment. But I will tell you what I took away from my two years of experience here. The one thing that always makes me appreciate and smile looking back on experiences at all my previous work places … is the people.

Never would I have thought that the people surrounding me, whether it be the hilarious cashier colleague at my supermarket role who worked beside me (who is by far the most customer-friendly character I’ve known to date), to the senior manager and partners at the big four firm – this is one common trait which always reminds me that everyone is similar no matter what type of workplace environment they work in or status in a company.

PROGRESSION POINTER 10 – You may have heard the phrase ‘networking’ several times, and in our minds we think of trying to impress individuals to land a job or make them proud. For me the definition has completely changed – it is about identifying the individuals who make your life happier both within and outside a workplace environment. You should strive to work in an environment where these people are the norm, and remove all the political drama involved within any workplace environment.

At the big four firm (Company 4) I have found and befriended unique, intelligent, but most importantly down-to-earth friendly individuals who I can see in my life in the long run. Finding this family is the true nature of networking.

In my next blog I will expand upon my own experiences which lead me to this realisation…


(3) Understand The Job For You – Explore Your Options

My first graduate offer since graduating! But I rejected it…

Not many people know this, but prior to even obtaining a job at Company 3 as a junior data analyst, I had received an offer elsewhere as an Accounts Trainee, with support to complete any professional qualification I desired. This was what I had worked towards for the past 8 months but I rejected it! Why?

Two reasons; working environment and career progression within the firm.

Although the offer seemed appealing on paper, there was a huge difference between what I had researched and what I had physically experienced. Personally I believed that there was something else in the near future that was waiting for me. I had to write out the advantages of accepting this offer compared to the risks involved if I was to reject it. It was more of a gut feeling…but I went with it!

I was now in a situation where I had rejected the offer, whilst still working at my local supermarket on weekends only, with only ‘potential’ job interviews ahead of me.

PROGRESSION POINTER 6: Do not be afraid to reject an offer if you believe it is not for you. Go with your gut feeling! However it is incredibly difficult to make a decision based on your guts, therefore it is important to also back this up with other reasons (e.g mine was to work within a comfortable working environment). Always remember that your opinion of the company now compared to when you first applied may have drastically changed. Put yourself first in these situations and don’t waste time.


Time to leave the ‘Kwik-E-Mart’- One hell of an experience!

Handing in my resignation notice on the same day as being named one of ten ‘employees of the month’ was definitely the most awkward way to resign (completely coincidental). However once the deed was done, the store manager was fully supportive of my next steps with plenty of advice provided.

The sheer support from the senior members I have received to date has truly been something unexpected and a real eye opener. What I learnt at this point was that movement is normal. I understand now that you should never be afraid to leave a firm. I realised that if I work for someone who was a true leader,  who commits to my development, they will keep committing to me even after departing my role.

[Random personal opinion: This is why I 100% support these zero hour contracts at companies such as this supermarket as it provides both employees and these managers with the flexibility to move around and maintain relationships].


Company 3: Another Exploration

My next step was at Company 3 as Junior Data Analyst to explore the practical side of the operational research aspect of my course at university. The interview for this role was extremely relaxed and made me feel as though I belonged there.

PROGRESSION POINTER 7: In any interview that you attend, always make sure that the interviewer/future manager suits your needs and what you are looking for in a leader. Remember that even if you do get the job, you are wasting your own time if you’re working for a manager you despise. Make sure you work for a leader. Do not just try to impress, be yourself!

I knew this manager was an individual I would love to work under when I was provided with the opportunity to learn a (required) software called SPSS, prior to making a decision about the job offer. Without necessarily knowing that I would stay, she showed me her willingness to invest in my development, even if I did not have the required technical skill-set for the job.


Operational Research….definitely was not for me

Coming towards the end of 3 months here, I realised that the industry and career path was did not suit my interests (it just felt a bit too robotic to be honest).

What I did  think at this point, like anyone else would was, ‘would I have been better of accepting the other job opportunity as an Accounts Trainee?’. My answer was, No. At this point I realised that following my gut whilst having no regrets was how I planned to evaluate similar opportunities in the future.

PROGRESSION POINTER 8: Do not settle for a job just for the sake of earning money and being employed. Money will always come one way or another, whatever job you do. Do not turn yourself into a machine whilst seeking the right role. If it is not for you get out and keep and open mind!

Although I was provided the opportunity to continue working at this firm, I had decided to pursue another opportunity that arose a few months earlier…

Which leads me to my job….at a big four accountancy firm – Company 4!

(2) Post-University .. The Dreaded First Year as a Graduate

University is over, I have a 2.2 – What do I do?!

Since I graduated with a 2.2 degree, I wanted to be sure that all those skills I picked up during my final years (see first blog) did not go to waste. My aim was to get a job as soon as possible and show employers in future years to come that I was determined and ready to enter the real world.

I applied for many internship and graduate positions, the first post-graduation job I obtained was through an internship agency. In order to be recommended to different industries, I was invited to attend a video interview at their office in London. Although it took me ‘two takes’ to get my video CV correct, I had received a call 2 weeks later from a company (Company 1) inviting me for an interview.

Company 1 – accounts assistant

During my interview at Company 1, I realised immediately how relaxed the interviewing manager was and how much I would love to work with him as my mentor. After a great interview, I was told that there were 7 candidates to interview (which pretty much gave my hopes up of obtaining an offer). Although to my surprise I actually received the offer in a few days time! I was absolutely excited to receive this offer, although it paid minimum wage, it was a sign that I personally do hold something valuable that these other candidates may have not.

PROGRESSION POINTER 3: Grades only account for so much, personality is key!

I had been with this company for 5 months, whilst at the same time trying to work out my next steps on my career path via other interviews. During these 5 months, me and the manager mentioned above had grown close. He had mentioned to me that he hired me because I reminded me of his best friend when looking at personality. This really showed me how important other’s perception of you are rather than one’s paper profile via a CV. Another note to remember is, these connections are and will always be vital! I had learnt years later from leaving the firm that this manager is now the Managing Director of the firm!

PROGRESSION POINTER 4: Maintain all connections wherever you work; each and every network matter!

Coming to the end of 2013, I realised that it was time for me to move on. I had learnt a range of things; from office culture in a medium sized firm, socials within a closely knit firm, to being responsible for my own work. What really made me appreciate this company was the support they gave me for my personal development. One of my other managers (Sarah) noticed me completing an application just before working hours commenced, early on a Monday morning. Surprisingly she did not react in the way I expected, but was very encouraging and showed interest towards the next step on my next career path. Sarah – I will always appreciate that moment. It may have seemed like a small matter to her, but I still hold it close to realising what really makes a relationship strong in a working environment.

Company 2 – the supermarket!

Although I had not secured a new job once entering 2014, I had made it my New Year’s resolution to be in a position where I had gained enough experience to understand where I wanted to be in the next 5 years. However, as I was still job hunting….I was still broke! Therefore I decided to get a weekend job at my local supermarket. Although this may not seem like a lot, this was probably my favourite job to date!

I decided to get a ‘weekend only’ job such that I was able to focus on my applications every day of the weekdays; almost as though I was doing a 9-5 job completing applications!

My job was mainly on the tills however what I learnt from this job was that just because I was working in a supermarket after graduating didn’t mean that this was a ‘time pass role’.I had noticed that the colleagues I worked with enjoyed what they did, whilst being themselves. At this role, I have seen much more smiles, laughs, banter and a friendlier environment compared to any working environment that I have worked within to date. Working in such an environment, where I see everyone genuinely happy during my 3 months there, definitely had me thinking about the type of people I wanted to be surrounded by in 5-10 year times.

My 2014 New Year’s resolution was to understand and have a clearer image of my future – however this would have to be built up step by step. This was definitely the start!

PROGRESSION POINTER 5: It is important to understand your personal priorities!

Personally, my number one priority is to work somewhere where I can physically see that people are appreciated for the work they do via their daily smiles and charisma shown.

On my next blogs I will talk about life after this role as I began to climb my official career ladder; via both an operational research role at Company 3 and finally to my present day role at Company 4 (‘big four’ accountancy firm)! In addition I will talk about how I went about actually applying for different companies which did not follow the standard route.



(1) My journey through university

‘Fresher’ than a guy off a boat

My journey began back in 2010 at the University of Warwick where I was absolutely thrilled to go to university to study a course called MORSE (not Morse code!) but Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. I chose this course to really understand the potential career paths available for me to sculpt and utilise my strength in mathematics. Outside of my academic life I absolutely loved the range of societies, football and …..kabaddi (an Indian sport that is the Indian equivalent of rugby – limited to a few square feet!).

Throughout my years at university I have always doubted whether the modules I was learning was a right fit for strengths and interests. There were certain areas covered such as Economics and Operational Research which I thoroughly enjoyed at university and prepared me for the real world. However other aspects including pure mathematics and statistics that I found to be absolutely horrendous to study.

Where did it go wrong?

It was during my second year of university in which I took the advice from those in the years above me to ensure I succeeded like them. I chose my module choices according to other people’s opinions, in the end choosing modules which suited their strengths and not mine!

PROGRESSION POINTER 1 – Only you know your own strengths! A vital life skill is to make calculated decisions yourself, but that does not mean that you should rule out other people’s opinions completely.

I also began to realise after my second year at university that certain people have their own method of studying. Just because you see one individual studying in the library from midday until midnight does not mean that method is the right one for all!

PROGRESSION POINTER 2 – Find the times and routines in the day where you are most awake and most able to concentrate. Do not study straight hours if nothing is going in, take those 15 minute breaks to have a chat…trust me as they will make a significant difference!

Where it started going right!

Don’t get me wrong, the summer holidays after my second year of university was one of the hardest period of my entire life. I received my results that showed that I was being put on a ‘Pass Course’, which essentially meant that the highest grade I could get was a 3rd at university no matter how much hard work I put in.

However, should I be willing to turn things around then I was able to get back on to the ‘Normal Course’. And that is exactly what I did and this was how…

During my 2nd year summer holidays, I managed to write down every module available in my final year at university and enabled me to think about my possible combinations, ruling out those that did not meet my strengths. I remember opening approximately 30 tabs on my Google Chrome (one for each module being researched). A few weeks later, I was in a confident position to submit my module choices for my final year.

Actions to be taken from day 1 of 3rd year – I decided to write down who to see, what actions needed to be taken within the first 2 weeks of university, and every little detail you can think of. I had never been so organised in my entire life and I could not believe how much it had paid off. I don’t just mean towards my final university grade, but I mean towards the continuous organisational skills being applied day to day, something I would have never  have thought of back then!

Actions throughout my 3rd year – I made sure to know what I was doing every week throughout all 3 years of university.Although I was still going out and enjoying myself, I made sure that this was all planned into my schedule as I could not afford one little slip up!


End of University

Finally reaching a point after my exams where I thought, “I’ve done all that I can” was one of the most satisfying feelings I had ever experienced; even prior to receiving my results. Therefore once I did receive my final grade from my personal tutor, I can honestly say, I could not be more proud of myself and my achievement of a 2.2 BSc degree with honours!

So my advice is, remember what you did and not what you didn’t do, there is so much more to you graduating from university than just this grade!!!