How are you?
Do have a read of what I’ve written below and see what you think, because who’d have thought life would pan out for you the way it has – talk about twists and turns, eh?
So, let’s see, at aged 26 you’re about to give up a hugely fun career working in advertising to go back to school as a full-time student at the College of Law (Store Street) (now the University of Law) to do the law conversion course. You also decide to take the risk of self-funding. Are you mad?
You’re out every night – having gotten to know a load of people in London town, your job’s in airtime sales at Capital Radio, you’re also part of a brilliant and sociable team, and some of your colleagues are the smartest people you’ll ever work with.
You also have a half decent side hustle with DJing sets in some of London’s most happening clubs – and you’re about to give this all up to go and be a full-time student again?
That’s punchy, as a lot of people keep telling you! Especially, because you aren’t pursing this to be a lawyer as such, you’re doing it as you think you could do with honing your analytical skills, which are more or less non-existent at the moment.
So, how will it all turn out and what tips can I give you now – twenty years on and with the benefit of hindsight? Given your love of music, I have carefully hand-picked some tunes that should resonate as you embark on your career and life journey. Here they are in no particular order.
De La Soul – Me, myself and I
The yardstick by which you’ll embark on this transition for years to come – a positive message – believe in yourself and trust your instincts. Take advice from family, good friends, work contacts etc by all means, but make sure you do what’s right for you and never rely on anyone else to fight your corner!
Keep your own counsel and it will always be you who decides what is best for you at any point in time. Have that confidence (not arrogance) to believe in yourself. Know and trust your own mind – no one knows you better than you do.
Rolling Stones – You can’t always get what you want
Never a truer word said! Get ready to be resilient and bounce back from minor or major disappointments as there’ll be many – you’ll experience failures as well as successes. All such experiences will only add to your life generally, whether they be good or bad. Take them all and use to your advantage. Remember and learn from them too – use all of them as an educative experience.
Tribe called Quest – Scenario
This is one of my all-time favourite hip hop tunes and the message here is to always make sure you fully evaluate your surroundings in a work context. Often there is so much more to ‘work’ than just doing your job. Make sure you regularly assess the dynamics, relationships, have a network, be politically aware – these ‘non legal’ skills will help you hugely. Make sure you stay sharp and focussed.
Robert Owens – I’ll be your friend
Over the years, one of the most satisfying aspects of the life and work journey you embark on will be the people you meet along the way. Granted, you’ll meet individuals who are absolute nightmares, but you’ll also encounter some amazingly smart, talented and kind people from a variety of backgrounds and build lasting, positive relationships with each of them.
Maintaining and nurturing those connections and building new ones will be hugely satisfying and you’ll gain so much from building your own network. Especially, because when you first set out on a path that ultimately turned out to be very different to what you expected, you had zero expectations of meeting people you thought you’d actually like let alone bond with.
Massive Attack – Be thankful for what you’ve got
For me, 20 years on and perhaps the most important one of all. Indeed, looking back, out of you and all your former uni mates, who’d have predicted that you’d be the one with a City career spanning nearly two decades, working for the likes of Slaughter and May and some huge financial institutions as well as cool fintech start-ups as general counsel?
It’s not what any of us would’ve expected! But you’ve been extremely fortunate to have experienced some brilliant highs, proper lows, met some inspiring people, handled some pretty funky and interesting work, led teams, and just as significantly discovered so much about yourself along the way, and all whilst getting paid!
Finally, remember, success extends well beyond your achievements at work, so if you can spend time hanging out with people you love and like, do stuff that’s interesting and fulfilling it can’t be all bad 🙂
It’s good to push and challenge yourself, but also very important to stop sometimes, and take a breath.
So, please give my letter your full attention Ehsan – and then go for it! Good luck!
Ehsan Haque is the first general counsel at AlphaSwap, a fintech start up platform that combines alpha capture with AI and investment management.