For many years I heard the saying: when you want to be successful as badly as you want to breathe, that’s when you’ll be successful.
I used to think that these were words purely said to motivate you, without any wisdom behind them.
My journey to reach the position of an exclusive private PA within a private residence and family office in the West End has not only been exhausting, but also mentally challenging. The odds were all against me. However my hunger to get the goal that I envisioned for myself helped me achieve my goals. This outweighed all the odds and my dream turned into a reality.
Beginning of the Dream
My dream started in the Autumn of 2012, when I was surprised to be picked up in a Rolls Royce Ghost by my uncle. He was a Chauffeur to private families. I entered the vehicle and discussion commenced about his day to day role. This triggered a light bulb moment, and from the minute I stepped out of the vehicle, a new horizon was opened for me. I knew the Concierge and lifestyle business was where my heart craved.
I wanted to be within a private household whereby I could make things happen. Freeing up time for a respected principle to carry on with their day to day role. Being the eldest in the family I had the responsibility to be a role model to my siblings. Helping a Principle was not something I was daunted about- though some may find it overwhelming.
At this point my career was established in the finance sector. I certainly had the experience to grow within the finance world. I held a BA Hons Degree in Accounting & Finance, however my dream of working as a Private PA was pushing me to sacrifice my 5 year finance career. Perhaps a decision most would think was foolish and irrational!
From 2013 onwards, the real mental challenge commenced. I had to tweak my CV to make it credible to recruiters, to show I was capable of doing private PA work. I started to apply for Admin Assistant roles, Executive Assistant roles & PA roles. All the odds were against me, as I had no real PA experience, and I am a male in a highly female orientated role. Plus, I am an Asian Male, and whilst it’s hard to find a male PA, an Asian male PA is even rarer. I also had no private PA qualifications and no private PA references. Having said that, what I did have was my heart, which was full with desire.
My cover letter highlighted that although I work full time in finance, I do PA elements within finance. Recruiters saw this, and also understood my story which helped when they put me forward as a candidate to respected individuals.
Next Three Years – Dealing with Rejection
Over the course of 3 years, I had 27 private PA interviews with numerous Principles, companies and other well established Diplomats. The fact that I had any interviews was an achievement in itself due to my lack of experience. But being a harsh critic of myself, I wasn’t overly happy as unless I secured a role, then I felt I shouldn’t be content. In some of these 27 interviews, I presented myself in such a way that I was invited back for second interviews. However I just couldn’t cross the line for many reasons. Some things I was told and believed were:
- You have too much personality
- You would suit a Mariah Carey-type boss rather than this client
- Although you presented well, we found someone with childminding experience
- We didn’t feel we could give you the role when candidate X has worked as a PA, and you have no experience
- You are too ambitious
- Your story doesn’t make sense
- You don’t have PA experience? Why did the recruiter put you forward then?
- We all have a passion for something, but that doesn’t mean you will succeed
- We went with another candidate as they felt more suited to the role
- You haven’t had a full time PA role
- The industry suits females more than men
- You don’t have art gallery experience
- You haven’t worked in a private house before
- Too cheerful
- Walk before you can run
The reasons above are only a handful of those which I received – mental struggles were really affecting me as I couldn’t handle being rejected. I knew I could get through the first round of interviews, but I would get rejected on the final round.
This was a gruelling experience which made me feel demoralised, upset, depressed and emotionally drained. My desire to succeed was not going to stop because of 27 ‘no’s. I knew what I was capable of doing, so even if it took another 27 rejections, at some point someone was going to say yes.
Driving Towards the Future
I continued to get support from my uncle, who was a mentor to me. I kept a balance between working at my full time role and learning the etiquette. When the times came to present myself to HNWIs, Principles, philanthropists and private families, I was going to conduct myself in a respected manner.
I sacrificed many evenings and weekends doing errands and ad hoc in order to gain more solid experience and build credibility in the industry.
I continued my full time role in the finance sector and looked to progress in this field too. In the summer of 2016 I was offered a position of a full time private PA. The principal recognised my desire to succeed!
I had fulfilled a dream that many thought impossible. That was my winning formula. I’ll always stay humble and remember my struggles. I love my new career – one I only ever dreamt about.
If it was easy, I think everyone would do it, but not many can handle the rejections that will inevitably come. Those who are determined enough to keep going are the ones who will one day reach their goals.
This is my story: Raju Salique.
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