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 the solitary one in my favour was my hunger to get the goal that I envisioned for myself. In turn, this outweighed all the odds and my dream turned into a reality.
My dream started in the Autumn of 2012, when I was surprised to be picked up in a Rolls Royce Ghost by my uncle, who is a Chauffeur to private families from the Middle East. I entered the vehicle and discussion commenced about his day to day role and the people he liaises with. 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 and free up time for a respected Principle to carry on with their day to day role. Even in my early life, being the eldest in the family I had the responsibility to be a role model to my siblings and help them achieve their goals. Therefore helping a private 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. Having worked in the Business, Commercial, Private and Sub Prime industries in Relationship Management roles, I certainly had the experience to grow within finance for the foreseeable future. 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; 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 and also the Principles themselves, to show I was capable of doing private PA and lifestyle management work despite my roles in finance as a Relationship Manager. I started to apply for Admin Assistant roles, Executive Assistant roles & PA roles with the long term intention that it would lead me to the ultimate role of a private PA, which for many is the dream role in this industry. 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 PA qualifications and no 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.
Over the course of 3 years, I had 27 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
- You are too cheerful
- You need to walk before you can run
The reasons above are only a handful of those which I received, and the mental struggle was really affecting me as I couldn’t handle being rejected time after time. I knew I could get through the first round of interviews, as I had skills in building relationships, but for one reason or another I would get rejected on the final round.
This was a gruelling experience which made me feel demoralised, upset, depressed and emotionally drained. It felt as if my dream was never going to come true. But 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.
I continued to get support from my uncle, who was a mentor to me. My strategy had been created with help and training from him, to ensure I kept a balance between working at my full time role and learning the etiquette of being a professional PA. When the times came to present myself to HNWIs, Principles, philanthropists and private families, I was going to conduct myself in a respected manner, and show evidence of my passion and experience.
I sacrificed many evenings and weekends doing errands and ad hoc in order to gain more solid experience and build credibility in the industry.
Meanwhile, I continued my full time role in the finance sector and looked to progress in this field too, but it wasn’t my passion. In the summer of 2016 I was introduced to a beautiful and humble Principle who saw my desire, ambition, passion and heart, and offered me the position of a full time private PA in the West End.
I had fulfilled a dream that many thought impossible, but what they’d failed to realise was that I’m someone who was so determined to achieve my goal that I’d have sacrificed almost anything to do so. That was my winning formula. I’ll always stay humble and remember my struggles, but will now enjoy being involved in a career which previously I only 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.