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To ask how people get these jobs.

(333 Posts)
Ecriture Mon 04-Mar-19 19:53:11

I'm over 30, I come from a working class background.

I grew up with a mum on benefits single parent, 3 kids.

I tried though.

I went to iffy poly uni and got a crap degree (2:2) because I worked three jobs just to stay on the course.

It's not been easy but I've been willing to work as hard as it takes to make a life for myself unlike my childhood.

However, in the past 7 years I'm working I've barely scratched the surface and I am only on 25 grand and still at the bottom of the pile.

Today I had to attend a meeting where 60% of people present were some type of chief officer, cfo or head of major departments.

They all seem to have very distinguished careers and have attractive salaries way beyond my own.

My question is this how did they get there?

A lot of women on this site also seem to be high earners with lots of responsibility.

Does one have to be born into a wealthy family, know the right people or go to the best university. I have none of this.

Can hard work actually get you anywhere in life?

Am I destined to spend the rest of my life doing a low paid work despite my ambitions?

Am I being unreasonable do you think that someone from my background could ever rise higher?

Can anyone give me any advice about what I can do or how they progress in the phone their own career?

DroningOn Thu 07-Mar-19 14:25:08


I've got a Masters in Structural Engineering

Been really fortunate in terms of the experience I've been given over the years.

Also work for a really forward thinking organisation who unlike a lot of our competitors are very anti "old guard" style of upper management with senior roles being occupied by grey haired old men.

thecatsthecats Thu 07-Mar-19 12:46:22

I am the COO of a very small company, and I guess the factors in this are:

- well educated, from a family with rich cultural capital - e.g. super educational environment at home, NT members
- 2:1 from a red brick (this was the minimum requirement for application)
- being both willing and able to do the extra hours aged 22-26 (I am very strict about working to rule now!)
- I have never got a job because of who I know, but I have an excellent track record of having good relationships with everyone bin the organization. I am even on good terms with a man I literally fired, and the HR woman who I could have raised a grievance against when she was a flat out cow to me seems to have forgotten this and happily supported my increased salary bump. (I am such a grouchy git though that anyone who knows me is surprised by this talent!)
- I am very capable at what I do. In a small company, my ability stands out even more (at entry level I could honestly do 3x the work of the other junior)

TransplantMyPersonality Thu 07-Mar-19 12:01:43

Wow. What a climb up the ladder in a relatively short period. DroningOn what degree did you do if you don't mind me asking?

DroningOn Thu 07-Mar-19 07:07:43

My DM was single parent a staff nurse at a nursing home so we were never flush with cash.

Went to an ok uni, pissed about for a few years then began to realise the opportunity I was jeopardising. Knuckled down got a 1st

Graduate job 2001, 18k

Got professionally accredited (engineering) 2008, changed company, jump in role £38k

Internal promotion (through application and interview) 2010, 47k

Internal promotion (through application and interview) 2013, 60k

Changed company for head of department role in a multi national organisation 2017, £74k

Internal promotion for a head of sector role (application and interview) 2019, £92k

Hard work, trying your luck at applications, not being afraid to move, being willing to challenge yourself and take on more responsibilities from your current role is how it worked out for me.

JenniferJareau Thu 07-Mar-19 06:47:56

I'd only go for a sideways move if there were really clear skills that I could gain that would get me to the next step in my career otherwise you waste time.

Did you ask for feedback from the other internal jobs you did not secure you mentioned?

PookieDo Wed 06-Mar-19 20:38:39

Posted too soon - do a pros and cons list and don’t be afraid of a new risk or challenge!

PookieDo Wed 06-Mar-19 20:37:51

Thanks! I will do it but hope I don’t look like a complete dick. I know they will photograph it for social media too (or film) which is worse because it will always be out there!

I’ve just gone sideways and it’s going to be a lot of hard work (further to travel) but I weighed up the other benefits - im way more visible now and also I have a much more supportive manager who will let me grow. I was really stifled in my other role

Ecriture Wed 06-Mar-19 20:04:16


Go for it. It won't be as bad as you think and it will get your face out there.

I've got a bit of a dilemma at the moment. there is a sideways move at my job which I think I would be good at. I'm not sure if I should go for it though.

Without going into too much outing detail, I've been knocked before for internal promotions at this job.

I'm nervous and I don't want to lose face.

ResistanceIsNecessary Wed 06-Mar-19 19:51:31

Good luck Pookie! I fucking hate networking. I don't find it easy to talk to people I don't know but it's so important to do it, because it really does make a difference.

PookieDo Wed 06-Mar-19 19:05:21

I posted earlier on here as I am in the ‘currently clawing my way up’ bracket
I got asked to go to HQ for a meeting today and when I got there, I made sure I networked with the people I do know. 1 hour later I got asked to do a 5 min presentation at an upcoming conference. I mean this is the last fucking thing I would like to do, rather pull my own nails out but I know I have to do it. Firstly I can use it in interviews secondly I look like I am confident

ResistanceIsNecessary Wed 06-Mar-19 08:04:58

Wrongkindofface yes definitely go for it. Part of my role involves screening and interviewing candidates to test technical knowledge and application. As a general rule of thumb the male candidates are under-qualified but tend to be confident in talking up their abilities and emphasising their talent for being adaptable and picking things up quickly. The female candidates tend to be extremely well qualified (and in many cases over qualified!) because they seem to look at role and decide not to apply unless they can do every bit of the job.

If you can do 50% of it and have relevant experience then go for it. I've lost count of the number of times I have seen a candidate (male and female) in front of me who is experienced but doesn't come across as particularly adaptable or interested. I can teach the technical - attitude and behaviour is more important. Thinking particularly of an interview I did last year where the chap turned up late, in jeans (to a business role!) and couldn't answer one question about why he wanted the job...

Sowing747 Wed 06-Mar-19 00:22:26

This is such an interesting thread - thanks OP.

I've worked in the online training industry for almost 20 years. IME a lot of the most talented people, particularly in project management roles, don't have degrees. They just seem to have a certain drive, motivation and swagger that sets them apart.

I'm never sure if they're like that to make up for not having a degree, or because they're like that, they just didn't bother with a degree.

JimCricket Tue 05-Mar-19 23:47:04

My father grew up in the Irish countryside in complete poverty (he calls himself a peasant, lol), left school at 13 with no qualifications. I think he is dyslexic but was obviously never diagnosed back then, his teachers actually regularly told him he was stupid and would never amount to anything.

He’s now a multimillionaire, a very successful businessman & the smartest person I know ...he’s a modest man who doesn’t think he has done that well for himself & still refers to himself as stupid. ....sometimes I wonder if his teachers hadn’t been so horrible would it have given him drive to succeed?

I think the key to his success is damn hard work (I’m talking 18 hour days, 7 days a week hard work), a vision that he wouldn’t be deterred from, his intelligence, humble beginnings & a good heart.

Mortgages Tue 05-Mar-19 23:30:38

As someone raised on a council estate I think I can answer this.

Some of these people have worked their way up academically and professionally for years- let’s look at Surgeons 6 years med school, 2 years post med school training then another 8 years specialty training. A lot of this is paid but not that well. There are also a lot of post grad professional exams and courses which cost thousands of pounds to prepare for and take. They will also be taking their work home with them doing hundreds of unpaid hours reading papers to keep up to date as well as writing their own case reports/papers which you have to do as a Consultant. This is all outside of their clinical work btw. I’ve heard it’s the same for lawyers / barristers too in their respective fields. Such career paths can actually run you into debt. Not suggesting you don’t work hard but based on your income I guess it’s a different type of hard work which is consuming. Yes you get “rewarded” with a high salary at the end but by that time is a different load of expenses (school fees and mortgages).

I’m just trying to say earning more money does not always equate to more cash and can actually leave you time poor. Lots of these people have marital breakdown and a lot of women I know have delayed starting families and going through IVF too.

Disclaimer (I am a Surgeon)

IdaBWells Tue 05-Mar-19 22:48:57

Definitely Wrongkindofface seriously what have you got to lose? If you want more senior roles you really need as much leadership experience as possible.

WrongKindOfFace Tue 05-Mar-19 22:17:56

But then I fucked it up by having a baby and requesting flexibility, so....

Ha, yes, don’t have children. Or at least have then when your career is well established.

It’s been a useful thread and I’ve gained some good advice, so thank you to those who have contributed. I want to move to a senior role in the next couple years and am taking on all the extra bits I can to give me the experience I need. Plus I’ve just been accepted onto a leadership programme, go me!

Actually, there is temporary internal senior role which I’d dismissed as I didn’t think I had the enough experience, but I actually think I could do it. I don’t have 100% of it, but I could do the majority. I should go for it, shouldn’t I?

2018SoFarSoGreat Tue 05-Mar-19 22:13:48

Another thing that has really aided in my progression has been recognizing who the super stars are (typically biggest fee earners) and working closely with them, in fact being instrumental to their continued success. When opportunities have arisen for them to move their practice to another firm, they have asked me to join them. They depend on me. Each move has resulted in significant raises for me, as their valuation of my worth has been communicated. I have parlayed that into 50k signing bonuses and raises in excess of 35k more than once. They sell me, because they believe they need me. And I make that work. So cultivate relationships with the right people.

I took a step back several years ago because I was tired of never sleeping in my own bed. Living to work. That meant a paycut of about a third but I've made that up over time in salary and again with bigger bonus. No regrets.

LaurieMarlow Tue 05-Mar-19 22:01:19

Often what looks like luck actually isn’t.

It’s more about softer skills and having native understanding of how the politics of a place work.

Take for example the junior that gets ‘lucky’ and is put on a high profile project under the manager who’s well known for backing his staff within the business.

It may have been pure luck. Or it may have been that the junior saw the opportunity and fought damn hard behind the scenes to get assigned to that project.

The people that advance quickly usually have their own advancement top of mind and are always thinking about how to make it happen.

They aren’t just getting on with their work and hoping someone notices when they do a good job.

Sophiathefortyfirst Tue 05-Mar-19 21:58:57

A lot of it depends upon the area you live in. In my area it's impossible to earn more than 30k working for someone else unless you're a doctor! The jobs literally don't exist! Employers advertise a salary of 15k as competitive in the local paper. The only way to earn more than that where I live is to start your own business.

IdaBWells Tue 05-Mar-19 21:58:17

Oh and btw I got my very well paid recruiting job because I was in line in a coffee shop and I heard a woman in front of me say “tell everyone you know that I’m looking for people who can work over the phone”. I said “excuse me, but I have that experience” (I had only just got my work permit and wasn’t working yet). When I was in the U.K. I was in the top ten salespeople for Churchill Insurance (online, over the phone insurance sales). She asked if she could interview me in an hour. I said yes, ran home and got showered and changed, had the interview and got the job. As well as a base salary of 35k I got a bonus of 5-10% of the annual salary of people I placed. I often got 5k + per placement. This was in the late ‘90s I had absolutely no experience in recruiting, my boss just explained to me what she was looking for and I hit the phones.

So it does involve luck, and also flexibility and the willingness to take risks. I have a 2.1 degree but mostly I find it is used purely as a screening method. You need to have a degree to get your foot in the door. My brother has his own successful business in the City of London and he left school at 16. He eventually bought the company he worked for.

IdaBWells Tue 05-Mar-19 21:47:47

There’s a phrase “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. If you are an ambitious grafter you are ready when “luck” or a good opportunity comes along.

I used to be a recruiter in manufacturing in the USA working with companies such as Boeing (they of course have various business units). I would recruit for jobs such as Senior Engineers, CFOs (Chief Financial Officer) and senior managers of all kinds, such as running a plant or division. I was always being asked for female candidates and they were like gold dust. There were tons of excellent, well paid jobs and companies that wanted to diversify their workforce and employ women in senior roles but very few women entered manufacturing management. This was 20 years ago and I doubt things have changed. Sometimes women need to look at male dominated industries and do some research and see if they have skills which would cross over.

Once a large manufacturing plant needed a night shift manager. Boeing was one of their biggest customers so they kept the plant running day and night to meet the needs of their customers (they were a high tech metal finishing plant). I scoured the nation looking for someone and heard that some clothes manufacturing plants in a remote area were closing down, I called the people there and found a woman who was running a plant and about to lose her job, I asked her if she would be open to working a night shift and she was. I loved her over the phone, she was funny and smart, a tough cookie with great people skills. After we checked her resume we flew her in for an interview and she was offered the job with a big pay hike. She ended up becoming a key employee and very successful.

Maybe some women reading this might think, well I could perhaps see myself running a plant making women’s clothes. Well in that case think about any kind of manufacturing. Don’t limit yourself to an industry that feels perhaps less threatening or less complicated. Of course, the garment industry has been disappearing and moving to Asia for many decades but I use this example to show how we can be self-limiting.

The skills to run a big plant are virtually the same in any industry. It’s basic Operations but there are so few women who go into operations management, they chose marketing.

Ireallywantmylifeback Tue 05-Mar-19 21:44:39

My DH has a DB. obviously they both had the same upbringing (middle class). DH didn't go to university, started working at 17 and progressed. Currently on 40k. BIL went to university, joined a company and worked up to CFO on £100k+ a year. He's very corporate minded tho and very determined. Moved away from home after university.
I think if you're in the right company with progression opportunities you can work up.

Windingstreams Tue 05-Mar-19 21:40:50

@powernaps you just look up the role requirements and do some research. Read some books or articles on marketing so you have something of interest to say - it’s not that hard and very few people have a degree in marketing. And none in recruitment.

CostanzaG Tue 05-Mar-19 21:40:28

power because around 70% of graduate jobs don't ask for a particular degree subject. They look for the skills developed while at university.
Also, they probably accessed support from the university careers service.

Powernaps Tue 05-Mar-19 21:36:41

PinkOboe "I knew about vets dentists and nurses but had no idea of the corporate world and I think that harmed my achievement".

I completely agree with this. I had no knowledge of the corporate world in real terms or the myriad of different roles or the line of progression or anything.

Also, it amazes me how some graduates (average ones) manage to secure a relatively good job (£25K+) within the first 6 months of leaving Uni, unrelated to their degree. For example Languages or Geography graduates getting roles in recruitment or marketing or something. Literally how do they know where/what/how to apply for, and know what to say and get chosen etc despite having no experience in that field and an unrelated degree? confused

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