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I Am Known: I Am More

The Oratory Celebrates National Careers Week with 'Careers in the City' Breakfast

The first Careers Breakfast Roundtable on Saturday 9 March was a huge success. Pupils were engaged and the speakers were excellent. The specialists for the event were Sarah Woodard, who works in Private Equity for EQT (Swiss firm), and Chris Jessop, an experienced Chairman and CEO of Healthcare Companies. The talk revolved around early career advice, skills students should develop, information on careers in the sector and the future workplace.

The start of the meeting began with a focus on the ‘Specialists’ life after school and any advice for what avenue to follow (be that Apprenticeships, University, etc.). The conversation started with Mr Jessop who stated that he went to university and also sits on the board of South Bank University. His advice was to identify what career in business you want; do you want to be an entrepreneur, work in the city or start your own business? He stated that when he is hiring he still looks for a good degree from a top university (Russell Group for example). The degree does not need to be in Business, but needs to focus on acquiring key skills for the workplace. Mr Jessop stated that getting a 2:1 in a degree you enjoy is much more likely to happen and will still give you opportunities in any workplace. He said companies, in his experience, are looking for bright people with high EQ/personal skills.

Miss Woodard, who started studying Medicine before changing to a Business and Management degree, talked about how she believes making changes are difficult but it is important to do what makes you happy. She stated that she had no regrets about her change and that it was the best decision she ever made. Miss Woodard emphasised that it is never too late to make a change.

The discussion then moved on to Private Equity and the role it plays. Miss Woodard explained that they work with Private Companies that are not on the Stock Exchange and that they give them capital. Mr Jessop bounced off this, as a Businessman who has worked throughout his career with Private Equity and stated there are lots of ways to make money in banking; however, Private Equity is a sign that your business has grown to a medium size. Miss Woodward talked about her role in fundraising. She explained that her role is to raise money to get funds for her company to invest in businesses. That being said, there are so many different roles within Private Equity that it is hard to say how to get into each field. Examples of roles include Comms, Strategy and Marketing. Mr Jessop agreed with this, saying that there are two avenues to go down. You can either be a ‘Specialist’ in a field (such as Finance, Marketing or HR) or you can work towards being a CEO/Chairman. He said that this was the best job because you are controlling the destiny of the business. Mr Jessop discussed the importance of finding a good ‘Graduate Scheme’ when you have finished university at a Blue-Chip company. 

The discussion then turned to skills. Both Miss Woodard and Mr Jessop agreed that the workplace was changing (more on this later) especially as more functional and legal jobs will be changing because processes will become automated. Both Specialists emphasised the need for students to develop their creativity, analysis and interpretation skills. Leadership skills are hard to teach but students are able to develop well-rounded skills through the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and Sport. The transferable skills developed outside of the classroom will help build the key skills needed for the workplace. Miss Woodard also talked about the need to develop communication skills. This can be done through Volunteering. Miss Woodard talked about how she used to volunteer in a Care Home and would spend most of her time talking to people. This developed skills she uses in her job today, especially (she joked) because people are not likely to give £500 million to a robot when fundraising.

Questions were then opened up to the floor. The first question was based around salary. Mr Jessop was very honest and said that the first 10 years are really important, there are no shortcuts. He said you work hard in your 20s and make it in your 30s. Mr Jessop stressed the importance of finding good Graduate Schemes and consultancy jobs that will teach you how to do something right. After this, the salary will increase. Miss Woodard talked about how pupils should look at salary progression. Although the starting wage may be higher, other careers will quickly overtake. However, bonuses in banking are good, but be aware that it does affect you when you are trying to get a mortgage.

The conversation then moved to AI and how it is being used. Mr Jessop reiterated that it will refine aspects of business and banking and will take people out of the system. Miss Woodard discussed how EQT have AI pilot schemes which are being use to support due diligence questions, online questions and support the administration of aspects of Private Equity. She emphasised that it is the future of the business and the need for students to upskill.

The discussion then turned to the working environment. The first question was on working from home. Miss Woodard said she loved the flexibility it gave her, how it enabled her to love where she wanted to live so that her commute was not a huge part of her day (an hour and a half), however, she was aware that this was not the norm in the sector, but being able to work from home is a really important part of her job. Mr Jessop identified why he thinks it is important for all people to be in the office. He believes that you lose purpose and social engagement skills if not in the office. He said that some of his best conversations about business have happened at the ‘Water Cooler’ and loves the office environment. The second question then asked about stress. Miss Woodard said that aspects of the job were stressful, especially when dealing with huge amounts of capital. It makes those working feel like they have to be at the beck and call of their clients. However, Miss Woodard emphasised that there is always help for those that ask for it. Mr Jessop said that it depends on the organisation. The best organisations help ensure there is not much stress.

Finally, the conversation turned to university. Mr Jessop started by stating that you should only go to university if you want to. Some of the biggest companies are offering school leaver schemes and apprenticeships to the brightest and hardest working students. He also emphasised that entrepreneurs do not need a degree; he listed some famous entrepreneurs who did not have a degree. Miss Woodward emphasised that it is more about capability than university. Mr Jessop finished by stating that an affective CV is an important thing.

Thank you to Miss Woodard and Mr Jessop for their valuable contribution to our 'Careers in the City' Breakfast.  

For more information on our Oratory Careers Breakfasts, please contact Mr Dodworth, Head of Future Pathways:

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