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Five Tips for Building a Career Around Your Passion

Natasha Sayee, Head of External Communications at SONI Ltd,  the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland on how she harnessed her passion to drive her career.

Natasha Sayee, Queen’s Law graduate and Communications lead at SONI LTd.
  1. Don’t rule anything out

When I was at Queen’s, if you told me I’d end up as a senior manager at a utility company, I really don’t think I would have believed you. I have a love of geography and environment and of nature. And I was a young Greenpeace activist. But I also had a love of debating, of the stage and of public speaking and was involved in local radio from I was about 16. . I wanted to be on TV. And I wanted to move in to reporting using my investigative nature, my passion for public speaking and my love of current affairs to become a reporter. And that’s what I did. I completed a Law degree. Then I moved to England where I did a post grad in Broadcast Journalism, worked my way through the BBC, until I was the most senior general reporter in the Belfast newsroom, and acting Ireland correspondent. And I worked on every story imaginable from the MTV Europe awards coming to Belfast to the unfortunate economic downturn and from elections to crime. I was at the top of my game, but it wasn’t exciting anymore. It wasn’t a challenge. And so I stepped into business, I haven’t looked back, I lead a team of amazing PR, Media Communications and engagement specialists doing the most challenging work I’ve ever done. What’s amazing about this role is that it’s a complete blend of everything I’m good at and interested in, so people, current affairs, and with that focus that we have on climate change. Well, I just come full circle in terms of my love for the environment and sustainability, which I really care about. 

2. Challenge yourself

I am really passionate about what I do. And if it’s challenging, then I bring my best every day. If ever it forces me to drive hard, then it is something I will stick with. And if you’re like me with a fire in you, with that drive, harness that passion, hook it into your career, and keep moving until it feels right and you will succeed. A Law degree from Queens has provided me with a really solid platform to allow me to make all of these jumps and leaps. It says to an employer that you’re informed, you’re considerate, you’re investigative, you’re confident and analytical. You could be a judge, it could be a barrister or a solicitor, an in-house solicitor, or you could become a reporter, or you can become a business leader… with a Law degree from Queen’s, really the world is at your feet.

3. Don’t be blinded by passion

I think at times my passion has blinded me, particularly perhaps when I was at the BBC, where I would have gone through walls to succeed without perhaps taking on board others or their feelings or collateral damage, really. And you can really only get so far on the steam of your own passion. To be truly successful, you need to take that passion, use it to motivate others, collaborate with them, understand what makes them tick. And then think about how you can combine all that fire together to achieve. All that’s possible. Passion is a great thing to have. It’s a warrior’s traits, but create your battalion. Don’t do it on your own, network and make those friends for life. I mean, my best friends are my family. I met them at Law school at Queen’s, they’re my units; they’re my power source. I just couldn’t imagine life without them.

4. Be a team player

You know, people with passion are warriors, we’re fierce, we’re strong. But I’ve learned that that can be intimidating. And that can lead to isolation. So don’t do a solo run, find your squad, find your network, your Battalion, you’ll achieve so much more together. And it will be a much better experience for you. You need to be empathetic as well. What issues are your colleagues dealing with at home? How can you support them? You know, really, relationships are the absolute cornerstone of good business, taking time to get to know those you’re working with. If someone doesn’t sound right in the phone, you’ll know that they there’s something wrong or if someone is on a video call, but maybe isn’t making as much of a contribution as they would normally. Well what’s going on, you know, you need to find that out and try to help that’s really important.

5. Give your passion context in an interview

If you’re interviewing for a role, display your passion proudly, and it will shine through, but make sure you back it up. And that means giving examples of how you’ve put your passion into play, to go the extra mile, whether that’s being top of your class in your subject, whether that’s volunteering, coaching others or taking on extra training. And try to keep a lid on your passion during an interview. What I find throughout my whole career, and it continues to this day, is that nerves and passion can be a really dangerous combination. So it can go one of two ways. You can appear arrogant and overconfident, , or you can get jittery, and you can end up waffling. So breathe, prepare, prepare again. And when you get into that room, whether you’re presenting or you’re sat in front of an interview panel, plant yourself, like a big oak tree, you know, really sink your feet into the floor, like you’re growing roots, and take some time to blossom. Channel that passion that you have to keep focused on what’s important and look after yourself and others. Passion is an exceptional standout quality. But it is like magic. And you have to challenge it and control it and make it work for you. 

You can stream Natasha’s recent talk on the Gradfest2-21 site here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/graduate-support/UpcomingLiveStreams/

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Advent Calendar advice communication skills personal skills presentations

Careers Advent Calendar: 5 quick tips for effective presentations

  1. Prepare – think about the audience, what you want to achieve, and create a rough outline of what you need to include and what visual aids you will use. Presentations vary in formality so try to get a sense of what your tutor expects in advance. 

2. Organise – a presentation, like an essay, needs an introduction/overview, main body with clear sections and a conclusion to reinforce important points. A good presentation needs interesting content. Think about how much information you can adequately cover in the time that you have. 

3. Deliver – use notes, cues and prompts (rather than reading word-for-word from a page) and speak to the audience (not to your page!) Look around the room, make eye-contact with the audience, if you can, and speak slowly and clearly. Think about your posture and voice. 

4. Visual aids and handouts – spend some time working on a complementary and informative way to present your information and highlight the main points. This often includes PowerPoint’s: use a large font size, avoid more than six points on a slide and use colour, pictures or graphs to keep your slides interesting. If you are using handouts, avoid large lumps of text; keep these brief and informative too. Be sure to refer to specific slides or sections of the handout in your presentation. 

5. Deal with nerves – A presentation is a performance. To control your nerves, be well-prepared: keep practising and then practice some more! Make a one-to- one appointment to practice in front of a tutor or ask a friend to watch you practice. Make sure that the presentation runs to the right time. Use confident and friendly body language to convey that you are relaxed. Use a clear voice and speak loudly enough. Slow down – it is natural to speed up if you are feeling nervous but breathe and take pauses. 

Want more communication tips? Visit the skills section of our website. 

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Employer Panels Employers Interviews Skills

Ask The Employer: What do you look for in a graduate?

We asked recruiters what are the stand-out traits they look for in graduates. Alongside the biggies like teamwork and leadership, they told us that a can-do attitude goes a long way. How many of these soft skills can you tick?

Communication

“Often times, it’s equally important that someone is able to communicate and has good presentation skills as it is the type of degree you have.” 

Adrian McCarthy, For Purpose Ireland

Integrity

“Most industries are highly regulated. Can you think of a time when you have had to demonstrate discretion and integrity? Would you be able to challenge the authority of they were displaying questionable ethics?”

Jo Ferguson, CME Group Belfast

A good attitude

“We’re looking for well-rounded individuals who have both the aptitude and attitude to thrive within their business.”

Kim McAllister, Almac

Passion

“We look for people who are enthusiastic, passionate and willing to learn. Attitude towards work is important, you should be willing to give tasks your all.”

Joelene Ridgill, Seagate

Commitment

The ideal candidate must be a team player and show commitment to the job and the firm.”

Sarah Fleming, Muldoon & Co

Adaptable

“We look for passion and enthusiasm for driving change. We need people who are quick to adapt and who are always learning.” 

Birgitta Swanberg, Liberty IT

Ambitious

We look for candidates who are driven to succeed and motivated to achieve targets set for them.” 

Clodagh Mckeefry, MRP

Creative

“We are looking for individuals who are curious, creative, and have an interest in constantly developing. People who can take initiative, ask hard questions, and develop your skillset to be successful.”

Jared Kearney, Citi

Want more top tips from employers? Join our Employer Panel series starting Sept 30, designed to help you develop your professional network and get the inside track on getting hired after graduation. 

Find Out More: https://rb.gy/8de1z8