How to climb the career ladder
You've got the job, now you need to make a success of it. Join Oxford university careers adviser Jonathan Black for advice on adapting to working life, and hear from two early career superstars at Ernst & Young about how best to make an impact
Directed, produced, filmed and edited by Joe Sinclair. Co-produced by Janina Conboye. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis and James Sandy. Edited by Richard Topping
So you've had the interview, and you've now got the job. Work is a different world. At its most basic, you have to turn up on time, stay all day, and do what you're told.
You have to work with a wide variety of different people, wider than the university, I would suggest. And I think the other issues are organisations can be quite ambiguous. They're more ambiguous than here's my essay, and this is what I've got to do. You've got to learn to use your influence to get things done. And your idea doesn't always get adopted, or get adopted straight away.
Fundamentally, success comes from your colleagues wanting to work with you. They've hired you. They want to work with you. And helping them do that.
So that means, again, taking responsibility when you're asked to do things, one, the first time, achieving things, and making others feel good so when they come in in the morning, it's great to find you in the office.
So this video is going to explore the ingredients for how to make that transition to the world of work.
Don't just take problems to your boss. Take two or three solutions that could be done, with a recommendation for which one. Bosses love that stuff. We've got this issue. I've uncovered it. And I think there are two things we could do. Which one do you recommend? One's going to cost us more money than the other, but it'll be quicker to solve.
So it's that sort of proactivity. And in a way, that leads to another point, which is acting as though you are the boss. I don't mean impersonating. But I mean acting as though you have the company's or the organisation's best interests at heart.
I mean, they always talk about when you want to get promoted, act as though you're in that role already. Dress like you're in that role, which, of course, may mean no change at all, depending on the industry you're in. And also, act like it. Think strategically rather than operationally.
Maybe you want to get the board out.
Yes. This is the fun time.
Oh, they're massive.
So I put energetic, encouraging, and no fears.
Oh, awesome. Yeah. So I said ambitious, star, and charismatic.
Aw, that's sweet. For me, in my eyes, I think Rosalie is such a rising star. And she's so ambitious. And she's always out networking and making the most of opportunities. And she's never afraid to put herself forward.
What Laura said to me, one of the biggest pieces of advice she gave me was, sometimes in your career you'll have people who put you down. And you have those who build you up. And actually, you only need two or three advocates to take you through your career. Cause you might as well go for the ones who think you're great.
I'm glad you remember my advice.
Yeah. Well, I said it in an interview the other day.
So network. Both got it. So networking. It's so important to further your career, whether it's in the department itself or externally. Often it's through networking. That's where you get the new opportunities.
Network was my first one as well. It's a piece of advice I give to students kind of transitioning from school, the university, into the work career. Because to be successful in university or in school, you can put your head down and you can study. And you can get the grades, and you can be successful that way.
I think when you come into the workplace, it's a very different game. And it really does come down to your network, and being visible so people can see exactly what you're doing, and that they know about how well you're doing as well in the workplace.
Everyone has to start somewhere. And those learning experiences, and taking them on the chin, and actually doing well with the little stuff is what's going to promote you on later on, because people see such a positive attitude.
And that's so awesome.
There's a quote, like your comfort zone is a nice place to be, but nothing grows there. And I think it's so true for your career as well. You can happily come in and do a 9:00 to 5:00ish, and stay in your comfort zone in whatever role you're in, but by pushing yourself, you really do grow. And you actually can surprise yourself at times what you really can achieve.
So yeah. So not asking for support would be another big pitfall, because thinking that you can do it all yourself won't get you very far, because none of us can. We all need support around us.
And even if you're just start at at the firm, or you're a more junior, or it's a new career, journey that you're on, don't feel like you have to know it all. And actually have the courage and the confidence to ask. And that's the only way you're going to learn.
It's such an important point you made, though, about doing really good at even the small tasks. I've had people working for me just doing very basic tasks at the start. But they've done such a fantastic job and had such a great attitude about it that when bigger opportunities came up, I knew who to go to and ask.
The other thing, which I've remembered it now, I was going to say that staying in your comfort zone. And actually leaving it is scary. And people who do these interviews, who do all these big things, they still get scared. So don't worry, that actually everyone gets scared by stepping out of their comfort scone.
Yeah. I love a comfort scone. Yeah. Everyone gets nervous stepping out of their comfort zone. But actually, it's those people. It's the death slide phenomenon, as I say, is that if you don't do it straight away, then you never will.
So you step out of your comfort zone. And it is a bit of a scare. But it's an amazing experience as well, cause you get the fun of going down a death slide as well.
I love that. A death slide. It's like, actually if you're scared by something, it's probably good. Do it straight away rather than waiting. It's like three, tow, one, and go.
This will be interesting. I think developing those personal skills, and like your emotional intelligence is going to stand you so much more. Because the technical skills are going to be outdated potentially. Or there's going to be some robot doing them. Or god knows what else might happen. But having those skills of resilience, and emotional intelligence, and your ability to just adapt I think are really going to be key moving forward.
So maybe ask for the next three years might be a more reasonable question.
I'm so proud of you.
High five. That's so awesome.
Identify things where you could get involved. I mean, don't volunteer for absolutely everything. From organising the Christmas party, through to the new building, and the move. But do volunteer for some things.
The word of caution, and probably particularly for women, is not to get pigeonholed into roles that women are better at, like the interior decor of the new building, or taking notes at meetings, or so on. So just be slightly aware of that. But do volunteer for some of the projects which you think are going to be useful.
I think there is a broader discussion as well about your personal brand. And you're not just building task after task. You're thinking about your overall brand of how you're going to be regarded in the organisation.
You might want to think about it. But ideally you'd want to be the sort of person people say, if you go and see them, they'll get it done. They'll take that on. And they'll get it done. Or if they can't, they'll give you a reason why they can't do it, why they can't do all of it immediately. They could do half of it by next week, or by the week after.
There is a sort of assertiveness role in there as well. So if someone then says, oh, this is the sort of person who gets stuff done, I'll go and see them, if you really are up against it and is too busy, then you never say no. You say, well, I can do some of it by next week, or by two weeks, or a month's time. And people say, that's great. They're really positive. And they're also recognising they've got to manage their diary.
What you don't want is the, for want of a better word, the job's worth. You say, no, it's not my job. And then people start avoiding you. And then you get into this vicious spiral, rather than a virtuous spiral where things grow.
Hierarchy is breaking down quite a lot in organisations. It's a bit like we heard from the interview feedback. They're human beings just as much as you are. And it's OK to email senior people to say, I thought you might be interested in this report that we've done here. You're having discussions with China, or with this product line, or what have you. And I did this analysis a couple of weeks ago that might be useful.
I mean, don't go jump over too many layers, suggesting. If it is hierarchical, go through your bosses and all the rest of it. But I think you can get it out there.
So this is about the all important employability skills. It wasn't an academic exercise that people were testing you on them. They actually want you to use them when you get to the world of work.
You need to prepare for that different pace of life when you get there. You have less control, less freedom, perhaps. But bigger budgets to play with, other people's money. Bigger canvas to paint on, of course. More teams. And a wider range of people to work with. All in all, a very exciting place to be.