Career Conversations by The Careers Company – From Brixton to the Board Room!

career conversation second act careers the careers company May 27, 2022

Tell us a little about you.

I am a Londoner, born and raised in Brixton.  The eldest of 4 children, I was blessed with an amazingly supportive set of first generation, immigrant parents.   

A shy, skinny, child of the 70s (yes, I am THAT old!) I had a pretty idyllic childhood.  I was a really poor student. Looking back, I think that was partly because I was/am neuro-divergent - I am great at creating clarity out of chaos but often struggle remembering what day of the week it is! As a result, I didn’t really have high expectations from a career and neither did anyone else!  Every small success was therefore a surprise and a blessing.

Finally, I am married to a wonderfully supportive husband, and, after almost 10 years out of the UK, we have returned back to London right in the midst of COVID – May 2020. Yeah, I know... great timing!

Walk me through your career to date.

I am going to start in reverse order (just like all good CVs!).   

I founded The Careers Company in September 2021 with a very dear group of like-minded friends. Together we seek to support under-represented groups navigate the increasingly complex world of work e.g. women, BAME, those from lower socio-economic groups and neuro-divergent colleagues. All through the power of conversation. I also serve on a number of corporate boards – everything from Healthcare to publishing!!

I am however a former HR (Human Resources) Director and have been fortunate to have held a number of senior HR roles for several FTSE 30 organisations. Through my HR career I have also managed to live and work in many cities across the world. My last big corporate HR role was as a Managing Director based out of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. This is me pictured here with my teams in India and Malaysia (top left and right hand photos respectively – I’m in the middle of both), me with the Group board when they visited us  (bottom left) and the last one is me with the women’s minister in Malaysia (bottom right). 

So, objectively I have had a “successful” corporate career, right? I have enjoyed a linear career having taken on a series of bigger and more complex roles with the status and financial reward to match. But, this belies the reality. Careers are subjective i.e. they are dependent upon the context within which they are viewed.  Take my own career, I see it not as a linear trajectory but more about collecting and curating a set of experiences. I was driven not by the next role, the next higher grade or the bigger pay-check but by the joy of: living in another country, thinking about what I could learn from each role, supporting others thrive and trying to “level up” the corporate playing field.

How did you decide your career choices? What else did you consider?

On reflection, I see my career split into 3 different careers or phases that helpfully build on each other. This is an increasingly common work pattern – we are expected to have at least 5 career in our lifetimes.   Each of my careers also interestingly involved different decision-making strategies.

My first career

My first career (very short-lived I hasten to add) was that of a Scientist. This was as a result of my degree choice. I say “my” pretty loosely, as the oldest of four children in a big, noisy Indian family, the choice was more an outcome of the limited occupational choices (the proverbial – Doctor, Lawyer or Accountant career paths) known to me and, to my family at the time. Chemistry was “chosen” because of the A-levels I was doing and it was the closest thing to medicine for a pretty average student!

My second career

The second career choice was a little more successful, (after four gruelling years as a Chemist) it sustained me for the next 20 years! Again, this choice was also not entirely of my own making, more something that I fell into following a happy coincidence. To make a bit of money at University, I got paid to be interviewed by trainee Human Resources (HR) consultants. I loved the experience and having caught a glimpse of this entirely new world, my career choice in HR was cemented for the next few decades.  

My third career

The third career choice and transition is more recent, over the last two years I have transitioned into what is colloquially described as a “Portfolio Career”. I realise this means different things to different people but for me it involved taking on a series of board roles (as a Non-Executive Director or as a Strategic Advisor) and of course setting up company. This was definitely a more considered and planned career move. 

While I loved my roles in HR, there were aspects of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life that just weren't being fulfilled in that corporate setting e.g. being an entrepreneur. Also, having spent the last 10 years out of the UK, I wanted a career that would help reconnect me with the UK. Finally, I wanted to be able to use my HR skill set in an altogether different setting. I can’t say it’s been an easy journey, nor am I “done” yet, but the transition has challenged me each and every day! 

I have also had to significantly retrain. I am just about to finish an MSc. in Career Coaching and have been on countless Non-Executive Director programmes.  

The actual physical changing of career is relatively straightforward. So, the transition of leaving work and starting something else was easy. The harder transition for me was a loss of identity as an HR Director. You know, my normal starting point when I introduce myself is “I work in HR” and to not have that was quite disconcerting for sure. It still is disconcerting 18 months on. Of course I now know that it typically takes between 18 to 24 months for a career transition. At the time I hadn't really appreciated why. Transitions are more about the identities we hold, rather than the physical change of role.

And if not those 3 career choices what would I have done?  The other two career choices after university would have been Marketing or IT. I am not sure I would have been great at either frankly!

What advice would you give someone who wanted to change careers?

As a career coach I am not one for sharing generic advice but there are definitely three things that have worked for me, that I would encourage others to reflect upon:

  1. Be clear about what you want!  Now this may come as a surprise given my first two career choices but for my recent transition, and all my career coaching clients (over 20 years) this is what we focus on the most. Clarity leads to confidence!  
  2. Actively seek out and embrace opportunities. Happenstance is definitely a thing BUT sometimes you need to engineer events too and have the right mind-set when they do occur.  Finally, I would say this given what we do at The Careers Company, and that is to: 
  3. Talk to people, have Career Conversations, tell your stakeholders and loved one what you really want.  We get what we ask for; not what we necessarily deserve!

If you found this career story interesting do sign up for our regular blog here.  Or if it’s been a while since your last Career Conversation, book a free session with one of our accredited coaches here

Meena Anand

Meena is the Founder and CEO of The Careers Company. She also is a Non-Executive Director for a number of different organisations in the UK.  Prior to transitioning to her portfolio career, Meena enjoyed a successful international career as an HR Director for a number of FTSE 30 organisations. She has been recently recognized by Cranfield University as one of the 100 ‘Women to Watch’ in 2021 and is on the Inspire List (created by Trustees Unlimited).

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.