Reggie Nelson: How to achieve success in your corporate job

Reggie Nelson: How to achieve success in your corporate job

This week’s episode with Reggie Nelson was a particularly moving one as the conversation was very close to home. Although I’ve not previously shared my journey with full transparency, in this episode with Reggie I was able to highlight some of the key themes such as poverty and access to education that shaped both my and Reggie's upbringing.

Although I didn’t grow up on a council estate like Reggie, I can empathise with part of his childhood experience. This includes my father passing away, being surrounded by drug dealers, losing friends to knife crime and so on. Talking to Reggie almost felt like therapy as we discussed our journeys to where we are today, what might have hindered our progress and why we might have been successful in ‘making it out of the hood’. So in this week's newsletter, I want to reflect on some of the key decisions I have made in the past and advice from Reggie that makes a promising future.

Escaping the poverty trap

A poverty trap is defined as ‘an economic system in which it is difficult to escape poverty’ or ‘spiraling mechanism which forces people to remain poor’ (Investopedia, 2022; The Economic Times, 2022). Unfortunately, most people are born into a poverty trap or enter one during a period of their lives given extenuating circumstances occur such as the loss of the main breadwinner of the family leading to a whole heap of financial issues. I can relate to the latter and have encountered many individuals who can too. A mix of low household income, minimal assets and poor access to quality education (emphasis on quality) present challenges to thriving in an economy with rising costs. If you grow up in socio-economically disadvantaged areas i.e. deprived neighbourhoods, it makes matters worse as you’ll most likely lack the cultural capital that promotes success in society and the workplace.

For these reasons, it was challenging growing up for both me and Reggie. We noticed living in such conditions, meant there was an urgent need to make money and better the lives of our family. Subconsciously, this may have been the reason I started many business ventures and desired to work in finance from a young age (after a Google search it was the highest paying industry). Similar to Reggie, his desire to escape poverty took him to the richest streets in London where he knocked on doors. Purchase Reggie's autobiography ‘Opening Doors’ to read his full story.

Although, the most visible routes we saw for escaping a life of poverty were:

  1. Becoming a professional footballer
  2. Becoming a rapper or singer (music)
  3. Becoming a criminal

The first two options were extremely difficult to make a real success from and chances were slim it would be the key to escaping poverty. As for the last option, although ‘crime pays’ this was not an option for Reggie or me as it was against our Christian morals. Thus we resorted to education and work experience as the main key. Similarly, we both studied Economics at University and went on to intern at the largest banks and asset managers in the world. I can’t help but share an amazing resource that aided me in my journey. A comprehensive list of companies in the corporate sector that offer apprenticeships, spring weeks, internships and graduate jobs.

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Balancing your full-time job and side-hustle

In the episode, Reggie made a very solid point stating that most people from Generation Z like myself are striving to build more than one stream of income. Consequently, that means we most likely enter the workforce with either a business or multiple side-hustles. This is now considered the new norm. So how do we balance a full-time job and side hustles?

Make sure you deliver in your full-time job first

Your day job will provide income to support your external business ventures. If you get fired then this doesn't help your wider goals other than getting extra time to work on your ventures.

Aim to be ahead of work and deadlines

If you plan ahead and complete tasks ahead of time then you can feel more comfortable as you focus on your own business ventures. Handle business at work, then handle your business.

If possible, share your external activities with someone you trust

Confide with someone you trust in your workplace whether that is your manager, HR or colleague about your extra-curricular activities. This helps diffuse potential conflicts and boost your morale at work if you’re supported outside as well.

Play the game, but don’t lose yourself

Upon asking Reggie for advice to thrive in my new graduate job, he told me to “play the game” that being the corporate game. The corporate game can be defined (loosely) as navigating internal office politics whilst trying to succeed in your career. Office politics can involve employees gossiping, misusing their authoritative power and behaving in such a way that frustrates their colleagues as they act in their best interests.

So how do you play the corporate game without losing yourself?

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Understand the corporate language (jargon), then speak it
  2. Don’t compromise on your beliefs and morals
  3. Make yourself known by your work ethic
  4. Be agreeable but not a pushover
  5. Comply with the dress code without losing your identity
  6. Always be polite
  7. Make close ties with someone in HR
  8. Network, network and network

Lastly, it’s important to bring as much as yourself to work as you can because you may be an example to someone following in your footsteps. If they can see you enter the corporate world and not lose yourself, maybe they can too.

Listen to the full episode on a platform of your choice: