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Navigating the career crossroads

The career crossroad can be a lonely place and taking the next step on the ladder or facing reconciling priorities with dreams is far from easy. Moving up in a company, tackling the tricky transition of changing careers, or even starting a new business all presents their own different challenges. To help answer a few questions and share some experiences, we invited three different people with different career journeys to join our candidates and share their advice for making the navigation of the job market less of a minefield.

Sharing their insights on the night was Tony Hanlon, a long-term Independent Strategy Consultant; Sofia Buttarazzi, Head of Global Marketing and Ecommerce at Teapigs; and James Waddilove, Founder and Director of Numex Consulting, a boutique strategy firm. With around six years working as a freelance consultant, Tony brought an interesting perspective of life outside of the traditional permanent route. Also with freelancing experience, James however chose to start his own company and was able to discuss the skills gained throughout his career, as well as an insight into starting a business. Sofia also talked about small companies and working for a start-up, with both the pros vs cons of staying within one company, moving up as it grows.  

First to speak was Tony Hanlon, who began his career with 11 years in the Royal Air Force, moving from there to the Boston Consulting Group and building the skills and network to become an established independent consultant.  He now specialises in retail and has worked on projects for some large national and international companies including Costa Coffee, Asda and Christies. Tony reflected on the dreaded ‘what do you want to do?’ question and how being honest about the changing priorities across your career will lead to answering that question. His current answer to job satisfaction is to “work with people I like and do work that is interesting!” 

Tony also reflected on the pros and cons of working in the firm vs. as an independent.  Having direct contact with the client and sole culpability for outcomes is perfect for some, while speaking with the weight of an established brand works better for others. Being able to clearly define your priorities, from how much you want to earn to where you want to live, will determine which path is for you.

It can also be noted that, a few years ago, the landscape wasn’t as tailored towards this way of working, but more and more this career option is on the rise. Networking and maintaining connections is crucial to keep this going.  

Next up was Sofia Buttarrazzi, who has grown from the 4th hire for Teapigs into running a sales team and managing UK and International marketing activity. She has now seen the company evolve from a small start-up to a growing scale up with operations moving to the US and has grown with the company. Although working for a start-up can be difficult, a hardworking team and being prepared to be versatile, accepting new challenges as the business evolves, is key to getting along well within a small company.

Sofia’s love for the brand shone through as she talked about being deeply involved in all aspects of the company and always seeing the bigger picture; from choosing types of straws for a new tea to managing the marketing budget for the year. The opportunities for growth within a small business can be many and a great place to build up a transferable and varied skillset. While ambiguity around career progression can be off-putting for some, the opportunity take on passion projects (like designing a Harvey Nichols pop up store!) can contribute to job satisfaction and a continued challenge.

After starting his career at Deloitte and spending three years as Head of Strategy at Ocado, James Waddilove has a variety of experience from working for a firm, in-house and freelancing to currently building his own practice, a boutique strategy firm called Numex Consulting.  With a mantra of focus, focus and focus again, James weighed up the benefits of training and exposure within an established firm, the variety of being an independent and the brand buy-in of working in-house with the lack of work-life balance, the challenge of making clients understand your growing skillset and the risks of starting your own business.  

Our own James Callander ended the discussions with the reflection that adaptability and being prepared to re-skill, no matter what direction you want to go in, is key for the changing business landscape. Economy, data and politics will all have an effect on the world of work, and knowing what your transferable skills are is also important when wanting to move up or move out of a company.

With each speaker bringing their own insights and advice to different challenges, it was a great platform for discussions and we learnt about the different options open to people wanting to make the switch. 


We run candidate events for our network throughout the year including insight evenings, CV sessions and seminars. Interested in taking part? Register your interest here