Thanks for writing me off, Mr White

With so much change in the world of work and more options than ever before career uncertainty is rife. Here, Paul Sigaloff, VP and head of APAC for Yahoo, looks at some key tools to help us understand where we want to go, then how we’ll get there.

Have you ever been written off by someone, or told you’re not going to make it?

When I was seven years old I got incredibly ill and it took me about a year to fully recover. When I eventually went back to school, we had a parent’s evening with one of my teachers who told my parents I might get my GSCEs (Year 10 exams), but as for my A-Levels (Year 12 exams) or University, “Forget it”.

I want to take this moment to say thanks to Mr White. His complete lack of faith in me ignited a fire in my belly which carried me through all these stages with flying colours and on through my career.

During Advertising Week APAC I was lucky enough to sit down with renowned author and international business leader Rishad Tobaccowala. We spoke of his career ‘toolkit’ – something which makes up navigation supplies you need during your entire career.

It’s an important topic as the world of work has never been so wide open – technological and societal changes have converged to mean we’re the first generations whose work CVs are going to look very different to our parents.

So I was a little surprised when I asked the audience how many of them had a career plan and less than 10% put their hands up. Clearly there’s a big need for more people to embrace these tools for themselves.

This is my spin from personal experience on how to apply the four tools Rishad outlines in his toolkit: a map, telescope, first aid kit, and the compass.

Not all those who wander are lost

Buses come and go, but would you ever hop on one without knowing its final destination?

Well that’s what many do with their careers. Instead of planning where they want to go, they flit around hoping that this particular bus will take them where they want to go. That’s why the map is the first tool in the kit, it’s the importance of planning your career.

You’ll probably be working in some capacity for 50 plus years, so this is about a long-term view of your life and career for longevity, what skills you want to develop, where you want to live and why.

For me that has meant understanding the types of company I like working in, and even identifying that we wanted to leave the UK and come to Sydney to raise our sons.

But reading that map requires you to use a few other tools as well.

Keep your eyes on the prize

For instance, you need to survey the terrain – and what better way to do that than with a telescope? Looking at what’s coming and planning how you can use it to your benefit.

The telescope is your way of identifying key megatrends driving structural change, and understanding how these fit into your map and what you need to adapt. From there, you can build the skills you’ll need to thrive and lead.

When I look at my career over the last 25 years, there has been a lot of digital transformation. In fact, when I started the internet had only just been created, USB drives were in beta testing and the first MP3 format was invented. Things move fast. Staying relevant is imperative.

As I look ahead, the next trends I can see shaping our world are things like data privacy and policy, omnichannel and Web3 technology.

Setting a true north

Identifying these trends is one thing, but it’s important to be able to navigate with them to where you want to go, and for that you need a compass. This is essentially identifying what your niche in the world of work is, where you can make a real impact.

For me this technological advancement plays into the niche I’ve identified –  helping businesses embrace digital transformation. I’ve worked across radio, TV, print and now a foundational internet company. I’ve played an increasingly significant role in each of these businesses to help them embrace the possibilities new technology creates and shift mindsets.

The other niche I’ve found is people – the passion for helping. This is something I’ve naturally moved towards in my career, whether it’s been lending an ear for a colleague’s woes in London through to more formal mentoring roles.

Our passion for doing good in the industry, creating a people-first culture which gives back – this willingness to help others – is now something that extends right across the company I work for. Essentially, these two things go hand in hand – doing good is good for business.

A frog in a pot of boiling water

We’ve all heard the inspiring tales of failure. J.K Rowling was denied 12 times before being picked up for publication. Walt Disney was told he ‘lacked imagination’ at his first job. Bill Gates’ first company tanked early.

Giving up is easy, dusting yourself off and going again is the harder path. Everyone fails, and that’s why the last tool, the first aid kit, is one of the most important. Finding people and tools to help you pick yourself up is vital.

My approach has been to create a personal board of directors. These are mentors from a range of backgrounds who really care about me as a person. Even now these people are a network, or safety net, I can turn to when I’ve fallen down and need encouragement.

Trying and failing is how you learn, and if you refuse to take risks you’ll never progress. As Rishad pointed out at Advertising Week, the world always changes, but people often forget to adapt and keep doing the same old thing.

“You may suddenly wake up and say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m a frog in boiling water and I think I need to jump out’. But then when you jump out, you don’t know what to do. And that’s why you need a first aid kit, in order to repair yourself,” he said.

Taking a measure of intentionality to our careers I believe is the key to finding career fulfilment – whatever that looks like for you.

Paul Sigaloff, VP and head of APAC for Yahoo


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