Why ‘them’ and ‘us’ should not exist in business
Whether it’s networking, mentoring or even interviewing graduates, I often get asked by students how I got to where I am. My usual reply begins with how I got my first internship, which I’ll come to in just a moment. But then thinking about this post, it really got me questioning my answer and I realised that I had missed a fundamentally important point. My career hadn’t started with my first internship; it had actually started with pure curiosity. In my case, it was curiosity to find out what exactly happened in The City and if that might be an industry that could potentially interest me in the future. Of course, this wasn’t going to miraculously happen on its own, so when I saw a poster of The Brokerage Citylink advertising their City of London Business Traineeship(CBT), I was on the phone before they’d even made it to my school!
Fast forward a few months, I had sent them through my CV and shortly after going through the selection and interview process I had secured an internship at Mapfre Assistance, an arm of a global Spanish insurance company. Things moved pretty quickly, what I was initially hired to do went out the window and before I knew it I was fully integrated into the team, working alongside some exceptionally talented individuals on high level projects. I left that summer with my aspirations at a whole new unimaginable level and a whole new set of doors wide open. The cherry on the cake of what was a truly phenomenal experience, was that out of about a hundred participants I had been awarded the City of London Trainee of the Year. Whilst it was a wonderful accomplishment, what The Brokerage had truly given me was invaluable: the support, the knowledge and the belief that as a student I had found lacked.
I left my internship pretty much ready to conquer the world, as cheesy as that may sound! I had been provided with an opportunity that had constantly challenged me to the point that I ended up even surprising myself. It had lit a fire in me that had made me realise that not only was this the right path for me but that absolutely nothing was going to get in my way. Of course, this could not have been done without some pretty incredible people along the way. The Brokerage team past and present for connecting me with the firm, the Mapfre Assitance team that had faith in me and took the risk to give me substantial amounts of responsibility at only eighteen and a mentor that was there through my journey from student to professional, that I had the pleasure of meeting at a Brokerage networking event.
When I finished my first internship, I had made myself three promises. Firstly, that I wasn’t going to stop there and each summer I would get a new internship and raise the bar even higher. Secondly, that when the time and opportunity came I would take on my own CBT student/s in a future organisation I was working for. Lastly, that I would do my all to pay it back/forward. After seven years I have accomplished all three of my wishes. I had raised the bar so high that I convinced myself to intern abroad, which was an enormous challenge having never lived abroad let alone on my own. I took on and managed two CBT interns this summer and just last month I was invited to join The Brokerage’s alumni board just in time for their 20th anniversary! I feel incredibly honoured to join a brilliant group of alumni that are equally as passionate about helping drive forward The Brokerage with new strategies and ideas.
The vision of The Brokerage is an important one, “a world where a young person’s ability and aspiration alone determine their career path...” but unfortunately the reality is quite different. Try and look at recent statistics and the evidence all points towards a decline in the work of Diversity and Inclusion in The City. The chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alan Milburn said “the rungs on the social mobility ladder were growing further apart”, which is why the work The Brokerage do is essential. Their mission is “to work with young people to raise aspirations, create access and provide opportunities within financial and professional services to achieve diversity in the workplace” and an important one it is.
Having come from a low-income household of one parent who did not have the opportunity of further education, finding an internship in The City would have been incredibly difficult. That’s why I can wholeheartedly say without a shadow of a doubt, I would not be where I am today without their help. They gave me my first step on the career ladder which was all I needed to believe I could do the rest. Whether it's diversity in gender, race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, there is so much to gain from creating a diverse workforce from increasing innovation through new opinions, ideas and ways of thinking to creativity. Now more than ever, we need to be supporting, highlighting and advocating the work they and similar charities and organisations do, in order to step away from a world of ‘them’ and ‘us and create a world of ‘we’.