Success means many things to different people. A fabulous suit and a beautiful pair of shoes looked like success to me when I was 14 - and believe it or not that’s taken me on a career path I’ve found interesting, exciting, and fulfilling.
I once shared my story - and the three lessons that have helped me throughout my career - at a REACH Summit, which is all about empowering and educating girls from varying backgrounds. So here it is again.
My first lesson one came from my mum. I really wanted a new pair of trainers – so she said “yes of course” – but only if I earned the money to buy them myself.
She wanted me to work for them, to understand the value of money – so off I went to find a job as a waitress. I saved up those hard-earned wages and got a rewarding sense of achievement when I finally had enough money to buy them. That turned out to be far more addictive than my shoe habit.
With hard work instilled in me as being both important and rewarding, I started to have ambitions – I wanted to achieve something. And when it came time to make my GCSE choices and decide what I wanted to be, I was influenced by a school visitor. And her shoes…
My school had organised for firms to send a representative into to talk about their careers. I remember being in awe of this young woman from Arthur Anderson, her wonderful suit and THE most beautiful shoes I had ever seen.
As she talked about her job, how much she loved what she did, the people she worked with - I was hooked. In an instant, I knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to do what she did. I wanted that life, that job, I wanted to work where she worked – and I wanted those shoes!
So I started down the path to become an accountant.
Before long I got the opportunity to interview for the Arthur Anderson summer internship. I prepared as well as I could in the days where Google wasn’t an option. I really wanted that internship. I was nervous, I was excited, I had never even worn a suit before but this was it! My chance.
Except … I didn’t get it.
I went back to my parents disappointed, and told them I didn’t even make it through to the 2nd round. I had been rejected! Lesson number two was delivered by my dad. He said “Emma – it’s time to put your rubber pants on!”
He explained to me that there were going to be people and events that knock you back all through your life, you have to make sure you have your rubber pants on, so that when it does happen, you just bounce straight back up and get back in the game.
I took a minute to digest this, then put on those rubber pants and never took them off. I’ve found them much more useful than a great pair of trainers or even a killer pair of heels.
So with quiet determination I interviewed for a second internship and their graduate scheme, preparing as much as I could and this time success followed. I was offered a place at both. I wanted to work for Arthur Andersen, and that’s exactly what I did.
Knock backs are always inevitable. But if you set yourself a goal and work at it, opportunities will always present themselves too – and that’s lesson three.
Success doesn’t always look how you think it will. It takes time, and hard work, and passion. But setting your mind to something, creating a goal and then achieving it, will always be the best feeling in the world.
A version of this article was first published on LinkedIn, 24 September 2021