How I made it: featuring Jon Aarons, Managing Director, Sard Verbinnen & Co
For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress.
We sat down with Jon Aarons, Managing Director, London at Sard Verbinnen (SVC), to find out more about his career and how he made it in the communications industry.
With over 30 years of strategic communications experience, Jon has an extensive network of relationships in the UK and across Europe. He joined SVC from FTI Consulting, where he had served in numerous senior roles over the past 17 years, including leading the development and growth of its business throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Read on to find out all about Jon’s career journey.
How did you get into the communications industry?
My first job after graduating was working for an MP. I worked through a general election and then once that was over I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had a friend from university who was working in PR so she introduced me to her boss and I then went to work in a very small start-up PR firm in Chelsea and worked my way up from there.
What keeps you sane on crazy days?
My routine involves getting up pretty early as I’m better at the start of the day and because I commute into London I like to try and beat the rush as much as possible.
On that commute, after quickly checking my overnight emails, I make myself read a novel – something that has nothing to do with work – for at least half an hour. I used to read the news, but I now save that till I’m in the office.
Do you have a mentor?
I’ve had lots of mentors through the years and was lucky enough to work with many inspiring leaders who helped me with my career when I was younger. It’s always been important to me to work with bosses who were a little older than me and from whom I can learn.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Looking back at when I was 20, and now having a 20-year-old son, I’m very aware that I had no clue whatsoever about anything at that age. So the advice I’d give myself – and the advice I now give my son – is to keep your options open as long as you can. Keep exploring all kinds of passions and ideas but don’t feel you’ve got to allow yourself to be pinned down into one narrow career at too early a stage.
Things get more complicated once you’ve settled down with a family and a mortgage, so while you don’t have these things you should keep on exploring.
I don’t really have any regrets, but if I was to regret anything it would be the way my career got started in my 20s. I wish I’d been bolder about going into different working environments and different parts of the world. I think if I’d had more self-confidence I would have wandered further afield.
What can the industry do to improve diversity?
We’re in the same place as every other professional services advisory firm in that we want to hire people who have worked to the highest educational standards and who have the core skills we need to be successful. So, we go looking for talent at top universities, work with good recruiters and hire in talent from other firms, etc. You could argue that this isn’t going far enough to help build a diverse workforce as we’re only fishing in the same old established waters and I am sympathetic to that point of view. It is hard to implement the right sort of positive discrimination strategies as a small firm but it is something we need to give more attention to.
Name one technology you can’t live without
I suppose it has to be my mobile phone. I used to be a big fan of my BlackBerry and I thought it was fantastic. But I’m now an iPhone user and I can’t be without it; it is an indispensable tool. I do need my email at my fingertips, but I think there’s something to be said for stripping down your life and keeping it simple. A lot of time is wasted on social media these days.