I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my first blog post for a while now. I’ve read countless points of view about all manner of subjects, sharing my own two-cents worth where I felt they may add value, but have never myself put anything noteworthy out there. As most people who know me will attest to, I am a man of many opinions, sometimes too many. But so much of the things I want to say have already been written in one form or another, and I’d like there to be at least a flavor of originality in this post. Therefore, I decided I’d do something loosely focused around myself, and would like to talk to you about chances. They come along all the time, ranging from the gargantuan, life changing chances, to the tiny, irrelevant chances that your unconscious mind takes automatically. But how do you identify when or how to take a chance, and how can you do everything in your power to give yourself the greatest chance of success?
I started looking on the internet for some truly inspirational quote to start this post with, but with every other picture on LI being Leo DiCaprio saying something generically inspirational from Wolf of Wall Street, I shall instead opt for the tried and tested ‘S/he who dares, wins’. I attribute my position and place in this world today to 3 chances, and it’s those I’d like to discuss. I pray this doesn’t come across as ego-centric or arrogant, rather I hope that by putting a few of my experiences into the wider domain, perhaps I can serve some greater value with them.
James the Labourer
So, a bit of backstory on myself. I did not take a traditional route through life to where I am today. Having finished my GCSE’s at 15, I decided to go straight into the world of work and become a Waterscaper (think landscaper but with water). I was a restless child and at that point not ready for further education. I worked in this business for 3 years, before my first real ‘chance’ came along. Tony, the junior partner of the firm, was retiring and leaving Paul on his own to run thing. With this being a small company there were not many around to step up to the plate. After a chat with Tony, I asked Paul if I could buy out the junior partnership from Tony. He laughed at me. I was 18 (the youngest in the firm), had a mere 3 years under my belt and there were several others much more experienced than me who he thought would be chomping at the bit. Only they weren’t. I pushed for a good 3 months before being given my first big chance. We had an important job on and we were short-handed. Paul asked me to supervise the project. Fast-forward 3 weeks later and we got the job finished on time and well within budget. At the end of the job, he took me aside and asked me if I was still serious about taking on Tony’s place. I told him I was, and that’s how at the age of 18 I became a part-owner of a business. I helped Paul run this business for 3 years, until 2008 reared its ugly head. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what happened next. Our service was a true luxury, and at a time when a lot of people weren’t even sure if they could put food on the table, they most assuredly were not going to put a pond in the back garden. We went out of business. I was unemployed. Which leads me on to ‘Chance’ number 2.
James the Student
As mentioned above, after leaving school I went straight into work. I did not have any form of further education, and sadly not even any form of qualification from my time as a Waterscaper as I focused more on the work itself than getting a piece of paper to prove I could do it. For a short time I tried my hand working at the local tool shop, as well as at a golf course as a part-time groundskeeper. But I felt unfulfilled. At the same time, I had made some friends who had told me all of their exciting University stories, and I was green with envy. The experiences sounded incredible, and I myself lived in a tiny town in Hampshire where NOTHING happened. I needed to escape. Having no real understanding of the application process for university (nor knowing about the existence of UCAS) I took chance number 2. I wrote Durham University a letter, explained my situation, what I’d done and why I wanted to come to their University. A few weeks later I received a reply telling me that I’d be a great fit for their foundation conversion degree (for those of you who have not heard of this, it turns a 3 year course into a 4 year one, with the first year offering an equivalent qualification to A Levels). I was elated, finally a chance to get my future back on track. In October of 2010, I made my merry way from the sleepy town of Bordon to the exciting (though very cold) City of Durham. (well, Stockton actually, but let’s not argue semantics). I was by no means a model student, but I managed to walk away from there with a 2:1 in Business and Management and a head full of dreams. After exploring my options, I decided that recruitment looked to be an exciting industry that worked on a meritocratic basis, and so joined a small boutique agency focused upon Financial Services in London. I spent an enjoyable 2 years here, recruiting across Financial Services first for Operations then Finance professionals. Sadly, the economy still seemed to have it in for me, and those six terrifying letters each of us reads every day first became a reality. BREXIT.
As a recruiter focused entirely on Financial Services, and only in London, the decision to leave the EU is one that impacted upon my future career path massively. Would all the Banks just up and leave? Would my job still be there in 2 years? Is Boris Johnson actually for real? All of these thoughts and more were crashing around my brain, and these are what pushed me towards my third and final chance.
James the German (in training)
After 27 years of being a true Brit (only leaving for a few sunny holidays and considering the fact I could only order some food and drink in a few languages) I decided to up sticks and head abroad. The world is a big place, I thought, and surely there are other places than London I can succeed. I weighed up my options and after a few discussions ended up joining Frazer Jones, a global HR specialist recruitment business, in their German offices. These were untested shores for both of us. My German vocabulary was limited to the small amount I could remember from my youth (my father was born in Germany and taught it to me a bit when I was a small child) and my GCSE B grade from school. The team in Germany had never had an Englishman working there before and had their doubts as to how it would work from both a technical and cultural standpoint. Thankfully they were kind enough to give me a chance (and it’s an important thing to bear in mind that chances aren’t just taken, they are given) and at the start of 2017 I moved to Düsseldorf, Germany. I have loved every minute of my time here; the people, the culture, the food (they really love potatoes and sausages here) and the locale itself are all incredible. I hope that I am here for a long time, and that this will be my chance to truly realise my potential.
Grasping the Moment
So at the start of this blog post, I asked what you can do to make the most of a chance when it comes along, or how to give yourself the best chance at success. There is no one right answer for this in my opinion. Dedication will play a big part in it of course, as well as a high level of resilience. But the most important factor of all as far as I’m concerned is the taking of the chance itself. If I hadn’t decided to push Paul, if I hadn’t written that letter, or if I hadn’t been given the chance in Germany, I would not have made it to where I am today. If there is something out there you want, but you think it may not happen, I can promise you that the only chances you truly fail at are the ones you never try in the first place. The other important thing I think is overlooked is the point I made about GIVING chances. Never develop that tunnel vision that makes your focus on just your own goals. Help wherever you can, give advice, make an introduction or maybe even a small sacrifice. It will make you stronger and more successful in the long run. So whatever it is you think you want to do, DO IT! TAKE THE JUMP! MAKE THE MOVE! BITE THE BULLET! The only way is up!
If that big change is in your career (HR or otherwise) I am always happy to assist anyone in any way I can. If I can’t help you personally, I will at least do my very best to point you in the direction of somebody who can. As a part of the SR Group, we have 5 specialist brands who are dedicated to HR, Legal & Compliance, Sales, Marketing & BD, Tax, Treasury & Investment Banking and Executive and C-Level recruitment.
For those of you who have made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope this at least delivers some small value to you in one way or another. If I can ever help with anything, please drop me a call/email.