‘Take action today to grow into who you want to be’ – Amy Gill, keynote speaker YFP20

The Your Future Plan Festival 2020 kicked off with a powerful talk from Amy Gill, a Global Operations Manager at HSBC. If you missed Amy’s talk, read on to learn about her journey and her key lessons for personal and professional success.

Quote from Amy Gill, 'be careful what you tell yourself because you will start to believe it. Your brain will always look for things to reinforce what you already think.'

Lesson 1 – Don’t become your mistakes

Amy experienced bullying in childhood that made her feel as though she just didn’t quite fit. Though she found confidence at secondary school by finding her place as ‘the funny one’, she still had a feeling that she wasn’t enough. Then, at university, she suffered the double blows of losing her beloved grandmother and falling out with her closest friend.

‘We panic because our worst fears about ourselves are coming true.’

Amy’s life didn’t look like she’d hoped it would at that stage. She knuckled down and she did the work, but she was struggling. She finished university with a 2:2 and realised that her degree was going to be an obstacle to the graduate roles she wanted. She wanted to be a manager – she really wanted to be on the HSBC graduate scheme – but all of the grad schemes required a 2:1. However, after a rocky start Amy knew she wasn’t going to give up on her goals now, so she had to take a different approach.

Lesson 2 – Attitude and relationships are everything

Having set her sights on the HSBC grad scheme, Amy knew she needed to first get her foot in the door any way she could. She started right at the bottom in an HSBC branch, and made the absolute best of the job she had. She told everyone she worked with about her ambitions, connected with everyone she could, and took every opportunity to meet managers, network and help out on projects. Despite being told that it would take her at least 5 years to work her way up to management, through the connections she worked hard to make and her resilient, determined attitude, she reached her goal in just 14 months.

‘As a manager, I value enthusiasm and attitude. If you can show me you’ve got those qualities, I don’t care about your qualification or your course.’

By the age of 24, Amy was running a branch. She admits that she got management ‘a bit wrong’ at first – she thought that she needed to be firm and authoritative to be respected, but soon realised that she wanted to earn her colleagues respect, not demand it. She learned that managing her team was easier when she was open and approachable, and she admits that her mistake was a useful learning curve.

Lesson 3 – it’s not all about the money

Amy dazzled us with images of her shiny, expensive paid-for flat in London, her high-rise offices and the brand new Mercedes she was given after a promotion. It looked the business – but appearances can be deceiving, as Amy told us that she soon felt disillusioned by her role as a Financial Adviser. The money and the status and the shiny things were great – but they weren’t making her happy. It took her a while to pluck up the courage to let go of them in order to change direction, but as she pursued roles that brought her closer to shaping people development and culture within HSBC, she realised that it was worth it, as she was finding the thing that really aligned with who she was.

‘When you’re not who you want to be, you’re out of alignment and you feel unsettled.

Drawing on her experience, Amy is a big believer in taking care of how we create our identity. You are who you tell yourself you are, and your brain will always look for things that reinforce what you already think. She talked us through the feedback loop:

For example – let’s say we believe that we’re no good at networking. For whatever reason, ‘networking’ scares us. So we avoid any situations that involve networking, we tell our lecturers/bosses/colleagues that we’re just no good at stuff like that and we don’t go to careers fairs where we’d be pushed out of our comfort zone. ‘Being bad at networking’ becomes our reality. Maybe one day we’re forced into it at an assessment centre or something and we really struggle – our palms are sweaty, we’re anxious and we stumble through some embarrassing conversations with strangers. We don’t get the job, and this feedback reinforces our initial belief, and so we commit ourselves to forever being terrible at networking. We never try to change this thing about ourselves. It’s just ‘who we are’.

But if we changed our belief from ‘I’m just bad at this’ to ‘I could get better at this’, our actions will change. We’ll seek out opportunities to improve because we know that we can improve. Our reality reflects our improved confidence, and we start to see positive results. The feedback reinforces our belief that we can improve – and so on.

What did we take away from Amy’s talk?

Don’t let your past mistakes define who you are today and who you want to become. Don’t believe in your failures, or the view of yourself that other people might hold. Don’t think that not having the right qualification / degree / background will stop you achieving your goals – focus on cultivating the right attitude and make sure you have a vision for where you want to end up.

‘If you don’t have a vision and you don’t have a goal it’s not going to happen.’

Need help defining your career goals? Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to have a chat.

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