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“Why not having a plan for my career was the best decision I (never) made!”

Meet Sarah Khalfaoui, our French Algerian fashion icon and self-assured voice of social action at ILMJ – who is still mastering how to make the perfect cup of English breakfast tea!

After two years at ILMJ, starting as our Marketing Coordinator,  Sarah has been promoted to Brand + Impact Manager, where her role involves maximising our social and environmental impact, as well as owning and driving ILMJ’s identity.

Sarah joined the company without a plan – just a gut feeling, an open mind, and a belief that this was the place for her.

In a time when social comparison, 3-year plans and self-pressure are all commonplace, Sarah shares with Frankie, our Recruitment + Impact Coordinator, why trusting her gut and not having a set plan for her career was the best decision she (never) made:

FF: Hey Sarah! Congrats on the promotion.  I wanted to start by asking you to tell us a little bit about you.

SK: Thank you! Well, where to start… I was born in Lyon, have a North African heritage and was raised by my grandparents and Mum. As a kid, I was super shy… but I found love in anything creative. Growing up, I always knew that I was going to travel. Sounds weird and super patriotic saying it but I had a union jack flag in my room, and I knew that one day I would live here!

FF: What did you do for a job when you got to London?

SK: Before moving, I studied Graphic Design, Communication, and Marketing. I needed a break and wanted to do something else, so I worked as a florist when I first arrived which was perfect. I got to use my creative skills whilst getting to know the city as I would travel around designing and delivering floral designs for some amazing companies. Although I’m grateful I did it, it was never something I could see myself doing long-term. It just wasn’t the right culture or role for me – I needed a change again but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was I wanted to do.

 FF: What was next for you?

SK: To be honest, I had a few months of being in a difficult place mentally whilst I looked for a new job. It was not a positive experience at all for me. I was approaching my late 20’s, everyone around me was ‘achieving’ and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I felt so lost, I wasn’t using my degree and I was worried about my future. I felt I should be settled and sorted. Everyone else seemed to be.

FF: How did you come to work at ILMJ?

SK: By chance, I found I Love My Job online and registered as a new candidate. After a great chat with Louisa, and meeting in person the next day, I felt inspired by what the company was trying to achieve and the impact that the team were dedicated to making. Everyone in the team was different to each other but the dynamic worked so well and for the first time in my career, I felt truly understood. I was offered a role at ILMJ, and although working for a recruitment company was definitely not something I had considered, it just felt right.

FF: What felt right?

SK: I felt compelled to join the team on their mission to positively impact the lives of people who essentially were in the exact same position as me at that point. The job title was secondary to me at this point – it was the reason that the company existed and the part I could play that mattered the most to me.

FF: Wow, to think it was all only 2 years ago. Now you’re the Brand + Impact Manager… how did you end up progressing to this role?

SK: Tell me about it! It feels like I’ve been here for much longer, in a good way. The great thing is that all my growth with ILMJ has been completely organic. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to ‘progress’ and had no set career plan. As the company grew, so did my responsibilities. I just kept focused on doing the best job I could – and to be honest, when you love what you do it’s easy to work hard, because as cliché as it sounds, it doesn’t feel like work.

FF: It’s a great title! Could you explain what a Brand + Impact Manager at ILMJ does?

SK: I’m the guardian of ILMJs brand, my role is to ensure that we are staying true to our values and that we are constantly evolving. I make sure that ILMJ is making the maximum positive social and environmental impact possible, on an individual and company level. I also manage our external accreditations e.g., B Corp, charity partners… It’s a really varied role, which can sound challenging but it’s actually really exciting and rewarding! I feel grateful every morning!

FF: So, would you say that you’re successful now?

SK: Yes! And my definition of success really changed since I started at ILMJ. A successful company to me is one that has a positive culture that values and supports the people, the community, and the planet. I also personally don’t buy into the belief that you need to ‘climb the ladder of success’ and step on others to advance your career. I think that success can come in many different forms, and for me it means having a social purpose and feeling like I’m making a difference to people’s lives. If my actions can help people to feel valued, recognised , and happier, myself included, then that’s success to me!

FF: What one piece of advice could you offer to someone who is feeling a bit lost at the moment?

SK: Forget the job title. Find a company that is doing good. Find a company that’s mission and reason for existing makes you want to get out of bed on a Monday morning!  Get to know the values of the company and your potential colleagues in the interview, instead of how quickly you can progress and when your next pay rise will be. When you have a shared purpose, and work with people who are aligned on values, something magical happens and believe me, it feels incredible!