patricia bright

‘Don’t be afraid to fail, just be a fast failure’ says Patricia Bright

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  • Patricia Bright was the first Black British youtuber to reach a million followers. Now a successful entrepreneur selling hair wigs and pieces for black women, she talks about how zigzagging between different jobs and industries was her recipe to success

    Patricia Bright explains how an unconventional route can be the key to achieving your goals

    In 2016, LinkedIn research found that making four job changes by the time you were 32 was ‘normal’. In 2019, an updated study found that for Generation Z – today’s under 24s – those four jobs had already happened. So, how do you turn an unconventional start into stable success? Here, 33-year-old fashion and beauty vlogger Patricia Bright, who has a following of 2.6 million, reveals the best career tips she’s learned on the path from banker to influencer, and how starting out with nothing fuelled her drive for success.

    1. Things can be taken away in an instant. Be prepared

    ‘I grew up in Battersea, south London, to Nigerian parents. When I was six, my dad was deported. One night, policemen came into the house and took him away while my mum pleaded and my sister and I sobbed. My dad had outstayed his student visa, but hadn’t applied for residency. It took six years to get him back. Alone, Mum could have been broken, but instead she grafted. She cleaned offices at 6am and trained as a nurse, so that she could join the NHS Staff Bank – a talent pool for temporary and part-time work. She opted for the ungodly 2am-6am shifts that pay time-and-a-half. Thanks to that, Mum invested in her first house. She proved that your past doesn’t define your future. But that showed me nothing was guaranteed, and now I don’t just have a professional Plan B – I have Plan C, D and E too. Ask yourself: if everything crumbles, what would I do? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; consider ways to expand your earnings based on what you know. One friend makes wigs and, rather than just sell them, she set up a class where people pay hundreds of pounds to learn how to make them. I also know a graphic designer who has branched out beyond web design – she now scouts customers via social platforms and offers to curate their Instagram feeds, with font and colour styling. Even if you work nine to five, you could get a bar job on a Saturday night.’

    2. If you’re going to fail, fail fast

    ‘My family wanted me to become a lawyer. In African immigrant families, you’re either a doctor or a lawyer because those professions give your children more academic opportunities. I’d studied A-level biology, chemistry, psychology and business studies – hardcore academia – so I went to the University of Manchester to do a fashion marketing degree as an opportunity to explore my creative dreams. I expected it to be cool to work in fashion, but I hated it. I didn’t enjoy making clothes; the only module I liked was accounting. After a year, I dropped out and switched to an accounting degree. I always say you should try something and see how it goes. If it fails, fine, but move on quickly. Don’t be afraid to fail, just be a fast failure.’

    3. Challenge your self-perception

    ‘After my degree, a friend secured a job at investment bank Merrill Lynch. I thought that sounded great and discovered there was an internship available, but I needed 360 UCAS points to apply. Because I’d previously dropped an AS level and changed degrees, I had 280 – not even close – but my male friend said I should apply anyway. Research 
shows that men are more likely to apply for a role whether they’re qualified or not. Women, however, wait until they’re qualified or even overqualified. I felt I could do it, 
so I networked. I went to a Women in Technology event to connect with senior management and recruiters from Merrill Lynch, so they’d remember me. It worked. My application was accepted, but I failed part of the entrance exam. Somehow, they let me resit it and I got the internship. The version of me on paper wasn’t supposed to be there, 
but I hustled and made them notice me.’

    ‘When your side hustle is held back by your main job, that’s the time to leap’

    4. It’s OK to feel like an imposter

    ‘In 2009, I started working at Merril Lynch as a business analyst, but I never felt confident. It took seven months for the stiff corporate culture to warm up. Then, two 
years in, I was made redundant. I felt dread. For one, I had pride in working at Merrill Lynch, but I’d also come from a graduate programme where I was almost babied through it. With that ripped away, I applied for jobs – still feeling underqualified – and moved to Deloitte, consulting for investment banks. Here, your job is to pretend you’re the expert. I remember meeting the head of Camden Council, a 50-year-old Caucasian male. There’s me, this 23-year-old, telling him that his business model is wrong and he should implement my strategy. I had no choice but to forget about my self-consciousness.’

    5 .You can survive humiliation

    ‘I began vlogging in secret at university. I was always into beauty, and there were forums, such as Fotki [similar to Reddit], where women would share their hair journeys or make-up collections. I started doing YouTube tutorials, recording videos in the bathroom, whispering as I didn’t want my housemate to hear because I thought it would be embarrassing. It was my private hobby until an intern at Merrill Lynch picked up my camera and saw a video of me talking and said, “Look at Patricia. Why would anyone 
do that?” This was around 2011 or 2012, and I felt like a joke. Work colleagues warned me that it didn’t look good for the bank. I shut my YouTube page down for months because I was so ashamed. Even after I started vlogging full-time, I hid it from my family. When I eventually told them, my parents put it so well, saying, “You have to do what career is right for you.”

    6. False starts make you stronger

    ‘By the time I started at Deloitte, I’d been YouTubing undercover for three years, my following was approaching 100k and I was getting vlogging work requests. But the Internet thing still felt random and it wasn’t enough to quit a solid career for. Instead, I was headhunted by MUFG, Japan’s largest bank, as a senior business analyst. 
While back in banking, I could see that YouTube was moving forwards quickly and I gained more confidence to see where it could take me. When I resigned, citing “personal reasons” because there was no way I could tell them the truth, YouTube became my full-time profession. Well, for three weeks – until I panicked, got cold feet and joined a digital company called Base79 for three months, consulting for brands on how to use YouTube. In a weird way, I needed this false start at an online media company to see the real potential of my channel. I said to myself, you need to go full throttle, put your foot down and do this. Mike Lewis, who wrote When To Jump, about people switching careers, calls it ‘the 10,000 unsexy steps’ you’ll make while chasing your dream job. It’s easy to get so caught up with planning a leap that you never actually do it – it’s called analysis paralysis. But when your side hustle is held back by your main job, that’s the time to leap. To help: invest in your decision. Even putting £10 towards something vital flicks a switch in your brain that says, “If you don’t follow through, the person it will burn is you.”’

    7. Confidence comes and grows with putting in the hours

    ‘Lack of confidence affects everyone. But the number of hours you put into something makes a big difference. If you want to become more confident, you have to apply yourself. I’ve got over 1,700 videos and, taking into account the ones I’ve deleted, I’ve probably filmed 3,000. So, why am I confident on camera? Practice. In my first job, I wasn’t confident. My second job forced me to become confident. Third job, I knew what I was doing because I’d put in the hours. Today, I feel fully in control. Trust yourself. And, more than that, trust your trajectory – whatever it might look like.’

    Heart & Hustle by Patricia Bright (£18.99, HQ) is out now

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