Tips from the top: The advice British business leaders would give their younger selves
Source: Taylor Grote/Unsplash

A study* of senior managers, managing directors and CEOs, carried out by the UK’s number one hiring app, JOB TODAY, has revealed that self-confidence (29 percent), problem-solving (23 percent) and time management (21 percent) stand among the key traits to master early on in your career, with a number of senior stakeholders suggesting that a firm grasp of office politics could benefit young professionals the most.

“Commitment to continuous learning” and “Confidence” – tips from the top

When asked what advice they would give new starters, senior professionals emphasised the importance of working hard, being confident in your skills and continuously learning – but above all, ensuring you’re passionate about what you do.

However, sound advice comes from the top, with many suggesting your first steps on the job ladder are all about learning new skills and gaining valuable experience. Therefore, a role that isn’t quite right for you in the long term isn’t always a bad idea.

Is a lack of opportunities and experience holding young professionals back?

According to those studied, there are a number of barriers for students and graduates entering the job market; 40 percent believe the lack of opportunities is one of the biggest challenges facing young professionals; something which many believe could become even more challenging in the midst of Brexit.

However, Polina Montano, co-founder of JOB TODAY disagrees:

“There has been a lot of concern about the job market amongst Brexit negotiations, but with 86,000 fewer EU nationals in jobs in the UK last year, we’re actually seeing that at this crucial time people have an abundance of jobs to apply to, and are taking advantage of applying for more jobs than ever.”

Lack of experience was also identified by over a third of those surveyed as another challenge holding many young job seekers back.

“Getting a foot in the door at the start of your career can be a challenge; learning vital skills through work experience and training courses can really help your personal development and secure that job you want,” explains Montano.

“Last year, JOB TODAY launched Job Academy, an initiative aimed at providing job seekers with new market standards of online and practical training courses to help them gain the knowledge they need, in the industries they want to work in.”

Work-life balance (27 percent), a lack of confidence (24 percent) and unpaid work experience (22 percent) were also highlighted as issues within the research.

As part of their research, JOB TODAY also analysed the first jobs of some of the UK’s most influential businessmen and women, looking at social influencers, tech businesses, food and drink entrepreneurs and the richest young UK entrepreneurs, and found that many of them started a business in a completely new sector to which they started their career in.

Richest young self-made entrepreneurs under 30


    1. Alex Loven, Net World Sports – builder’s assistant
    2. Jack Cator, HideMyAss – self-taught web developer
    3. Joshua Stevens, One Retail Group – bond and equities trader
    4. Akshay Ruparelia, Doorsteps –  Spanish cinema attendant
    5. Jamal Edwards, MBE and SBTV Founder – worked in Topman while starting SBTV


Among the richest young self-made entrepreneurs, there are very few similarities in first jobs, though it is clear that their early experience clearly impacted their careers.

Alex Loven, who worked for a year as a builder to fund his new business and Joshua Stevens, who started his career as an equity trader, both imported goods online which they sold on for profit as teenagers; skills that helped them develop the businesses they run today.

MBE, Jamal Edwards’ interest in fashion meant working in Topman was the perfect first role while he created the Youtube videos that started his media empire, SBTV. He is now a huge advocate of side hustles and advises people to take a job as long as it pays the bills.

Richest social influencers and their first jobs


      1. DanTDM – supermarket worker
      2. PewDiePie – hotdog seller
      3. KSI – school drop out
      4. Joseph Garrett – barman
      5. Zoella – shop assistant


While social media stars can earn tens of thousands of pounds every time they post, the majority of the top five come from humble beginnings, with four out of the five having had part-time jobs in supermarkets, bars, high street shops and on hot dog stands, while KSI dropped out of school to focus on his videos.

YouTube personality and professional gamer, DanTDM, now earns an average of £7,064 for every video he posts, while vlogger, Zoella, ears upwards of £27,000 per video**.

Fastest growing tech start-up businesses and their first jobs


  1. Poppy Gustaffson, Dark Trace – professional services graduate
  2. Peter Lipka, Improbable – banking analyst developer
  3. Nik Storonsky, Revolut – equity trader
  4. Kristo Kaarman, Transferwise – professional services consultant
  5. Will Shu, Deliveroo – banking analyst


Unlike the richest social influencers, founders of some of the UK’s fastest growing tech stat-ups cut their teeth after graduating, with a number of the top five working in central London.

Poppy Gustaffson, co-CEO at cybersecurity company, Dark Trace, and Kristo Kaarman, CEO of mone transfer service, Transferwise, both had their first jobs working fro professional services consultancies, such as Deloitte and PwC, while Peter Lipka of Improbable and Will Shu of Deliveroo both started their careers in the banking industry. Four out of the five tech businesses in this list are now valued in excess of nine figures.

Food and drink entrepreneurs to watch and their first jobs


  1. Timo Boldt, Gousto – project manager for a car manufacturer
  2. Alan and Juliett Barratt, Grenade – gym worker and teacher
  3. Charlie Thuiller, Oppo – graduate at alcohol company
  4. Philip Eeles & Tom Barton, Honest Burger – street food vendors
  5. Rosie Ginday, Miss Macaroon – pizza waitress

Although food is a passion for all of these entrepreneurs, they didn’t all start out doing what they love. Meal box delivery mogul, Timo Boldt, started life working in project management for a car manufacturer, Juliett Barratt of supplement brand, Grenade, started her career in teaching and Charlie Thuiller, who co-founded healthy ice cream brand, Oppo, started working life on a graduate scheme for an alcohol company.

Commenting on the research, Polina Montano said:

“Looking for your first job after school or university can be difficult, but many job seekers can definitely take inspiration from the entrepreneurs we have analysed and realise that your first job doesn’t necessarily need to define your whole career.

“The job market is evolving; young professionals understand that the first steps in their career are all about learning those essential skills, such as communication and problem-solving, while gaining experience that will continue to carve their career.”

For tips from some of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs on starting your career, visit

*Survey of 519 senior managers conducted in February 2019

**Figures calculated using Influencer Marketing Hub

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