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How to raise concerns at work, even as a new kid on the block

Written by Astrid Roest on 27 September 2020 for Graduates

Exellys supports the graduates we place with our financial services clients, to fast-track their professional development, helping them become valuable assets to their organisations. We do this by giving them regular coaching sessions and tailor made training programmes that focus on the skills and awareness they need to excel at what they do.

Here we discuss Mubarak, one of our talented graduates who was placed with MUFG. He talks us through some of the skills that his coach helped him develop – stakeholder management and the ability to speak up at work and offer novel ideas to his department that would help them run things more efficiently.

Who is Mubarak?

  • Mubarak Aden
  • Graduated in the summer of 2022
  • Joined Exellys UK in the fall
  • Works for MUFG

For an Exellyst, Mubarak has an atypical background in biochemistry. During his third year at university, he did a placement year in a fertility laboratory. “Although I liked it, I realised after that year that I didn’t want to work in a lab for the rest of my life,” recalls Mubarak. “After thinking about my options I looked at the financial services industry and came across an opportunity at Exellys for MUFG, a large Japanese investment bank. I was excited to move into a new industry and learn all these new things. Of course, there were also some transferable skills from my biochemistry degree.”

At MUFG, Mubarak works on change projects. “My role is to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget, while making sure that everything runs smoothly and all regulatory requirements are met. I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot.”

Fostering learning and development

Mubarak explains that what attracted him to Exellys was the investment that would be made into his training and development. “I heard from my friends that a lot of them struggled in their graduate roles because they were just thrown in at the deep end. At Exellys, there’s a structured two-year training programme and you get a training budget of £5,000, which is a lot of money to spend on yourself to get extra qualifications. You can also rely on the ongoing support of your Talent Development Manager (TDM).

Stakeholder management skills

One of the biggest things that Exellys has helped him with is stakeholder management skills and learning how to articulate his ideas better. “During the Start Smart trip, which is a three-day offsite at the beginning of the two-year programme, we did the Insights training. I learnt all about different personality types which helped me not only to understand myself better, but also know how to deal with others. For example, when I work with senior people, who are often ‘red’ profiles on the personality colour scheme, I now know to be concise with them.”

Beyond this, his TDM has been extremely helpful in Mubarak’s professional and personal development. “Whenever I have an issue, I can bring it up during one of our regular coaching sessions. For example, my TDM has helped me come up with a plan or figure out how to structure my argument”.

Raising concerns as a graduate

Mubarak identified with his coach that he was finding it hard to volunteer new ideas for how to run projects better, for fear of being viewed as impertinent or not even ignorant. He noticed that a certain process in his workflow was quite repetitive and could think of a way to make it more efficient, but didn’t know how to address this issue with his manager and team, so he put it on the agenda for his next coaching session.

“Firstly, my TDM helped me to identify the reason why I was struggling to raise this issue. We concluded that I didn’t feel confident enough to articulate the change I wanted to see. My coach offered me some concrete tips: ‘Make it clear at the outset that there’s a problem you want to address. Explain that what you’re proposing is something the team needs to do anyway, it would just help everyone to do it earlier in the process. And he helped me structure how to articulate that. I even took some notes that really helped me feel more confident when I brought it up in my weekly one-on-one with my manager at MUFG.”

Mubarak’s manager responded positively and encouraged him to present his idea to the team at their weekly meeting. This has given Mubarak to add more value by offering even more suggestions for improvements.

Mubarak’s top tips for raising a concern at work

1. Ask for help or advice from someone you trust.

“I realise I’m speaking from a privileged position with my TDM, but even if you don’t have a coach, you can ask for help or advice. At work, most people will want to help you, especially when you’re just starting out.”

2. Practice how to phrase the question.

“If you’re already nervous of not confident about raising a concern, having a plan will help put you at ease. That’s what I did, and I felt much more confident talking about it because I knew what I was going to say in advance.”

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About Exellys

Exellys is a Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be. Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!

Written by Astrid Roest Talent Development Manager