Salwa Darraj

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Key Lessons to Succeed Early in Your Career

We all join the work force with great aspirations. Some of us are aiming to become the best in their field while others are looking to create the next big thing. We work hard to achieve our goals, but no one knows the exact formula for success. Perhaps because there is no magic formula or because we each create our own and tailor its variables for each new experience.

Prepare for the unexpected 

Defining your dreams and identifying your strategy only represent the fixed portion of the formula. You will still need to add the variable portion to hedge against what you cannot control. That is why it is important to be able to modify your career plan as the circumstances change but without losing sight of your ultimate goal. The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to expect everything as this will allow you to have a contingency plan regardless of what the future holds for you. 

Do not say NO because you do not KNOW

If life presents you with a great opportunity, do not reject it just because you are afraid that you will not be good enough. With hard work and an appetite to learn, no task will be unachievable. Always remember that you need to learn, learn, and learn as you go, expand your areas of knowledge, enrich your mind, use what you know and build on that knowledge to conquer new opportunities. 

Being involved in more than one area of expertise will allow you to differentiate yourself and will transform you from being a qualified professional to become an invaluable asset. 


Going to the company’s annual dinner or sending a follow-up email after a social gathering for professionals is usually not easy but is always important to do. Networking is one of the key elements for a successful career; it allows you to connect with other specialists and to enrich your professional knowledge. You can network within your own company or with professionals from other realms of business and the two forms are of equal importance. It is crucial for people within your organisation to get to know you as this may help you get that big break you were waiting for. 


In a highly competitive work environment, working hard will not be enough to differentiate you. It may get you appreciation and recognition, but it will not make you stand out from the crowd. If you want to be special, you will have to embark on a never-ending expedition to look for new opportunities and new initiatives that you can join or even take on yourself. This will allow you to meet new people, to network and to get involved in exciting opportunities. This may not be directly related to your day-to-day work but it is of equal importance. Being involved in more than one area of expertise will allow you to differentiate yourself and will transform you from being a qualified professional to become an invaluable asset. 

Seek a mentor

Having a mentor can have a significant impact on the career progression of young professionals, which is why it is essential to identify and seek the guidance of a mentor early on in your career. The mentor-mentee relationship should be based on trust and the two parties should have similar perceptions about success. Being matched with the right mentor is a tricky part, but specialised professional networks can provide networking opportunities, which may pave the way for meeting the right mentor. 

Dream big and go after what you want

Do not expect others to hand you the opportunity that will make you on a silver plate. Instead, define your goals, identify your strategy and then go after them with full force. Create your own chance and make your own luck – people may not help you to get what you want but they will salute you when you make it. 

The beauty of dreams is that they are not real until we turn them into reality ourselves, and so it does not matter if they sound reasonable or a product of science fiction as long as we believe in our capabilities. But it is worth noting that all dreams should be accompanied by a structured strategy.

Do not be intimidated by success, always dream big and work hard to achieve your goals. You may not achieve everything you were hoping for, but at least when you dream big, even if you achieve a portion of your goals, that itself will be an accomplishment. 

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Salwa F Darraj

About Salwa F Darraj

MSc Economics & Strategy for Business 2015
Salwa F Darraj (MSc Economics and Strategy for Business 2014) is a Senior Consultant at EY and Champion of the Women’s Network. She is also a member of the Imperial College Business School’s Alumni Advisory Board, a Fellow at the UK Chartered Management Institute, a member of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut (AUB), and Imperial College London student mentor.