CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Victoria McLean, Founder & CEO of City CV

Victoria McLean is the Founder & CEO of City CV, an international career consultancy focused on guiding professionals at all levels with career transition and development.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been advising individuals and companies on their career and recruitment strategies for almost 20 years. I set up City CV in 2009 after a successful career in London and Sydney, which included steering recruitment at two of the world’s largest investment banks: Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

My background means I can look at recruitment from all angles. I’ve been on the agency side, in-house and now I’m flourishing as a globally recognised career expert. The common thread across all my roles is my commitment to truly understanding what employers are looking for and ensuring individuals fulfil their career goals.

I do this primarily by introducing marketing principles into people’s career search. It’s a technique that really works. Over the years, City CV has won several industry awards (Best Executive CV, Best Finance CV, Best Graduate CV, Best Sales & Marketing CV, Best International CV, Best Hospitality CV).

Initially, City CV was just me. Now, we employ experts across a vast array of industry sectors who bridge a gap in the market for top quality CV writing, LinkedIn profile writing, content creation, career coaching, interview coaching and career transition.

We also guide companies on how best to inspire leadership, raise brand awareness and optimise employee engagement and retention. We’ve expanded to overseas markets, so our clients come from Australasia, the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. And, we work with several top international business schools.

But, for me, it’s all about helping people to secure their dream role and create a career path that works for them. There is nothing I love more than receiving ‘thank you’ emails and congratulating our clients on their new jobs.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Typically, I start my day in the beautiful Kent countryside, where I live and where City CV has an office (we also have an office in Central London). Our office in Kent is only 30 minutes from London, but it’s a different world. It’s gorgeous and it’s so peaceful.

This space is really important to me and my family. It means I can be at the gym at 6am, get back home for breakfast with my children before they go to school and still be at my desk by 8:30am at the latest. No matter what else the day throws at me, I always start feeling grounded and grateful for my life here – it’s blissful.

I must admit the rest of my day isn’t always such a haven of tranquillity. As well as managing a company that now employs 25 people, I do a huge amount of public speaking at careers events and I run webinars and workshops around the world.

That involves a lot of international travel, which can be stressful, but I love this part of my role; it keeps me fresh, informed and engaged.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes absolutely. I’m passionate about work flexibility. It’s something every employer should offer – in fact, needs to offer if they’re going to attract and retain brilliant and talented people.

Only a few years ago, flexibility was seen as something that only applied to working mums. That attitude is changing – fast.

Men are demanding it, people without kids are demanding it. And, why not? Healthy, engaged employees need the flexibility to lead full lives. We all have travel dreams and personal ambitions, as well as family responsibilities.

Every single member of the City CV team has a bespoke contract designed to accommodate their specific lifestyle needs.

Everyone chooses their hours and location. Some work remotely (from various countries around the world) and some base themselves in our Kent or London offices – all on different days. We are completely flexible and agile.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I have an excellent team around me, so I manage my workload and schedule by delegating and trusting the experts I’ve employed to deliver. We need to give up this myth that we can ‘do it all’ – it just leaves us feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. Also, there’s no point in employing good people and then trying to micro-manage them.

Each day I make a list of everything I want to achieve that day and the time I plan on doing it.

My day is back-to-back – it feels completely crazy sometimes. But if I diarise everything at 30-minute intervals (leaving room for any last-minute issues that may crop up) I find I can achieve what I need to and still leave on time to get home to my children.

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

When I had my first child (I now have two wonderful children, a Kiwi husband and a gorgeous Labrador, Rocky) I re-evaluated my life.

I realised that working 60 hours a week was not for me. I wanted to find the right work/life balance, but I also wanted to put my own stamp on the world and make a genuine contribution to the world we live in.

I spent my maternity leave doing what we guide our coaching clients to do. I evaluated my strengths and motivations to understand what I could do and what would fulfil me.

When I was working in recruitment, I always loved coaching and I recognised that people were not making the most of themselves and not able to see or articulate their real talents. This was true of people at all stages in their careers – from senior executives of global news channels to graduates just starting out.

As City CV was born – and grew – I realised that I was creating my career and my future on my own terms. At the same time, I was empowering other people to do the same.

Now, what I now do genuinely touches people every day – we change lives! Which is pretty amazing and incredibly fulfilling.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Life can get super-busy with a family and a business to run. I also have a few passion projects I can’t resist getting involved in.

I do a lot of public speaking to raise awareness of workplace diversity and inclusion, for example, and I partner with several organisations who help women smash through the glass ceiling on to the Board and those that support individuals returning to work after an extended career break.

For me, work-life balance is about setting boundaries and making sure I invest time in supporting my own well-being. Time with my family is precious – they are my ‘why’ and there’s nothing like children for keeping you grounded and maintaining a healthy perspective on what’s important in life.

Being a career consultant can involve supporting people through some difficult times. Bouncing back from a redundancy for example. You can’t do that well if you don’t invest in yourself.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

An all-time favourite is The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s all about the power of giving, connecting and putting others’ interests first.

I truly believe that when we shift our focus from getting to giving—and we continually try to add value to others lives—we reap the rewards both personally and professionally.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I trust my team. This is my number one business tip – really take the time to recruit the best people you can. That’s not just someone with a strong CV (although that’s a good start).

You need to find people who align with your company culture and ethos. Also – and this is crucial if you’re an entrepreneur or start-up founder – someone who has the potential to grow and develop with you, as you grow and develop your business. It’s not easy, because you can’t just rely on gut-instinct.

We spend a lot of time consulting and coaching business owners on how to benefit from more structured recruitment techniques to ensure they find their perfect match. It’s a worthwhile investment because working with the wrong people is one of the biggest energy drainers around.

I trust every single member of my team to deliver their best work for our clients – and they do. I don’t need to be constantly checking up on them. To me, this is a completely natural way to run a modern business.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My personal productivity soars when I take regular breaks from my computer and do something active. Many employers don’t take this need for regular breaks seriously enough. There’s lots of evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of simply getting up and moving around.

I love that more companies are incorporating activities like yoga and meditation into their daily schedules. But, really, anything that gets people moving will work. It can be as simple as going for a walk – it gets people talking and exchanging ideas too – so it’s perfect.

And, you don’t need to be in the countryside for that. Urban walking is brilliant too. It’s what I do when I find myself in a new city for work; I get to soak up the atmosphere of the city and give myself some headspace – it’s a walking meditation that puts me in the perfect frame of mind for my client meeting, presentation or workshop.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.