Some years ago I was working for a small corporate finance firm, which had a much flatter structure than a typical large investment bank. Still, deal sourcing was largely the responsibility of senior staff, whereas the juniors crunched the numbers, worked on marketing presentations and helped to execute M&A deals. One junior associate bucked that trend. He built up his own list of potential clients, got in touch with them and developed relationships which eventually converted into fee-paying mandates. He wanted to have a more senior role and instead of waiting to get promoted through the ranks, he acted as a director he aspired to be. (He left before he got a raise and became a successful entrepreneur. The firm began encouraging other juniors to build their own client network, giving them greater responsibility and expanding the business.)
Regardless whether you run your own business or are employed by one, you have to draw a picture of where you want to be. These days it’s easy to add your ambitions to your business website or a profile on LinkedIn. I know an entrepreneur who did a talk about her line of business, enjoyed it and then added “public speaking” to her expertise on the website, allowing others to engage her for a fee in future. She is already a step ahead, despite lack of experience. A company I’ve recently come across through my consulting work shows logos of big brands they have previously worked with even though their current ‘bread and butter’ clients are small and not particularly well-known. Apart from signalling trust, big brands also demonstrate the company’s ambition to take on large, lucrative contracts.
Aspiration is also an uncompromising guide on a career path which helps to filter away opportunities which aren’t in line with your vision. Have you ever interviewed for a role which promised to pay well and offered a good lifestyle but just did not seem right? Sometimes it’s tricky to be choosy but imagine yourself being stuck in the wrong place five days a week and dreading Mondays? Where do you really want to be? What chimes with your values?
As for my personal aspiration, I’d like to write Life Tonic for FT Weekend magazine one day… Of course, any career ambition requires grit apart from wishful thinking. Here is my latest article from the portfolio I began building up this year with the New Statesman: In Kiev, after the revolution, what do ordinary Ukrainians really think? Please share it on social media, if you like.