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Lessons from my career journey: Fyona Knight

May 3, 2020

As I celebrate my 20th year of working in London, I’ve been reflecting on the career lessons I’ve learned over the past two decades. While I never could have imagined the amazing opportunities that moving to London would afford me, there have been significant bumps along the road. While I look back with satisfaction on what I’ve achieved, there are a few words of advice I feel are worth sharing with others who are just starting out, or who are looking to change direction in their professional lives.

No career plan? no problem!

Growing up in a rural location meant I knew little of careers beyond being a teacher, nurse, or farmer’s wife, so arriving in London meant I hadn’t a clue where to find jobs that interested me. I eventually decided to try out different industries by taking on temporary admin roles in different sectors, before choosing the one I liked most, (which was banking & finance). I recommend this trial-and-error method to anyone unsure of which career might interest them, or who is looking for a complete change of scene, as they are likely to uncover interesting jobs in sectors that they were previously unaware of.

Play the long game

As an arts graduate the only banking job available to me was as a receptionist, so I worked this to my advantage, taking the time to observe different roles in the business and learning more about the industry, before deciding which line of work to get more involved in. If you’re finding it tough to enter a new industry at the grade you want, it may be worth doing as I did and taking a post on a lower rung. In my experience firms love to discover untapped talent in their midst, and are always keen to promote junior staff who show potential, intelligence, and ambition.   

Successful career paths are not always linear, or even planned

For every job I’ve landed, I’ve been rejected from many others. While some roles did not work out, others led me in directions I’d never anticipated. Don’t be disappointed when things don’t go to plan, as just about every successful person I know has experienced numerous failures, and had their career plan torn up at some point. These moments taught me to be flexible about following my career path as it unfolded, and to be open to opportunities as they arose, rather than fixating on a single outcome. They will also help you develop the perseverance and grit you’ll need to cope with future difficult times.

Ignore the doubters

At almost every stage of my career I was told I would never make it any further. Well-meaning colleagues warned me that I had the wrong background and wrong experience to compete with more qualified peers, while prejudice towards my degree, my background, and even my gender meant that I was often dismissed as a serious candidate. Fortunately, I chose not to listen to those people, funding my own financial qualifications and building up a solid background of work experience. This paid off when I eventually got my big break – a job interview for an admin role turned into a job offer to train as a financial analyst! This break may have been down to luck, but the years of investing in my career credentials meant I’d put myself in the right place at the right time to accept it.

So ignore the doubters. Look at ways of gaining the skills you need to move ahead, and trust that you have the ability to make it happen. In my case everything I was told I could not do back then, I have now done.

Networks work!

Building networks has been a key cornerstone of my career. Developing a group of supportive colleagues was a crucial part of securing backing for internal promotions, while joining industry associations gave me access to deep pool of knowledge and connections on whom I could call when I was seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Getting involved in the Women’s Irish Network has allowed me to meet inspiring women from a diverse range of industries with whom I share a background, and has been a great way to feel part of a warm and welcoming community in a city that can sometimes feel overwhelming.

The writer Harvey Mackay once wrote “Success in life depends on your willingness to never give up, even when the reward is delayed”. It’s a quote that has inspired me through my career, and I hope it will also inspire yours.

Guest blog by Fyona Knight

Fyona is a Derivatives & Counterparty Risk Analyst with a City asset management company that manages over £319bn worth of assets globally. 

As an Arts graduate, Fyona began her City career working in support and administration roles, but worked her way up through the ranks by gaining diverse front office experience and passing a series of financial qualifications. She trained in corporate risk management in 2010, and was sent as a consultant to work with banks across Europe, before specialising in oil and gas. After taking a career break in 2015 to work with the National Trust, Fyona settled into her current role, focusing on OTC/FX derivatives trading counterparties. She recently received a scholarship for women to study Financial Strategy part time at Oxford University. 

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