Social Mobility Week
As part of Social Mobility Week we’ve spoken to several Deloitte people who have been willing to share their personal story of social mobility, or their perspectives on the importance of supporting people from low-income backgrounds and creating equality of opportunity. Claire Wood shared her thoughts and personal experience on why programmes like BrightStart are so important in helping young people find their way into the world of work.
Claire, a Director in Go to Market started her career in Financial Advisory and since then has worked across a variety of roles in a number of Deloitte’s offices, building her knowledge, networks and skills to achieve the success she has today. Claire’s success in a variety of roles is proof positive that it’s not where you’re from, but where you are going.
How did you get started in your career?
I was a headstrong teenager and certain that university was not for me. I started my career through the equivalent of our BrightStart scheme in a local authority in Glasgow. I was happy because I was getting the chance to earn some money and get my foot on the ladder. My parents were happy because the scheme included the opportunity to take professional exams and they saw the value of having qualifications to fall back on in the future.
What things or people influenced your early career?
Early on in my career I was lucky enough to work closely with the Deputy CEO of the local authority I was working for. I was 16, 17 years old and getting to spend a lot of time talking to and learning from this highly experienced, measured and logical man. I learnt a lot and was encouraged to speak up and to engage. That freedom and opportunity were hugely valuable to me.
How did you come to work for Deloitte?
I had moved on to a construction company by this time and was unhappy with the culture and the way things were done. I wanted a new opportunity but I didn’t know how to find something that would suit me. So I picked up the Yellow Pages and sent speculative CVs to all the ‘big businesses’ I could find locally. Deloitte were the ones who called back - my CV had landed on the right desk on the day someone had resigned. I was offered an interview as the EA for the then Head of Financial Advisory for the Scottish practice.
Tell me about your interview and your early days in Deloitte.
The interview was quite unlike any interview I’ve had before or since. We talked about skiing and the partner gave me a demonstration of the snowplough technique. We talked about books we were reading and shared interests; we got on like a house on fire. We discovered we knew many of the same people - everyone knew everyone in the Glasgow business community at that time.
What advice would you give a school-leaver starting out in their career?
The networks I was fortunate enough to have access to were helpful to me in the early days. I’d encourage all young (and not so young!) people to really think about building their networks. First impressions really count - think about your ‘elevator pitch’ and how you’re going to make the best possible introduction. Look for opportunities, put your hand up. The connections you make early on in your career will be useful to you for years to come.
I’d also say, don’t feel that you need to defend your decision not to go to university - you wouldn’t have got to where you’ve got to today if you didn’t have something to bring. Different perspectives and experiences are so valuable in business. Don’t be afraid to bring yours.
What advice would you give to someone taking on a school-leaver?
Don’t underestimate them. Schemes like BrightStart are hugely valuable in giving young people a fantastic grounding in business. Just because a young person knows that university was not for them doesn’t mean they are any less capable or enthusiastic. Give them your time and your support, but push them to develop - I was lucky enough to have that kind of leader early in my career and I still feel their influence today.