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Catching up with... Joti Patel

Joti Patel

Joti Patel studied Psychology and Sociology and graduated from Kingston University in 1999. Joti combines her passion for arts and media, business and psychology by working as a Leadership Coach with companies such as Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs and Sky, and as an actress and presenter with recent credits on Netflix series Uncoupled, BBC's Eastenders and ITV's Coronation Street.

How did you develop your career as a Leadership Coach?

It happened organically after stepping into management shoes overnight in a ‘sink or swim' moment, and after being thrown into the deep end, I swam! Thankfully, I was able to replicate some of what had worked across the entire business in operational management. In time, a colleague and I formed an in-house duo for anything within the realm of training for leadership and management. I later decided to explore a whole different career in the arts. To facilitate my move back to London, I took a role working for an NHS Director in Learning & Development, which complimented my new lifestyle.

I appreciated being able to combine my psychology and business management background. Through word of mouth, I found myself being hired as an Associate for several third-party providers which enhanced my credentials. I then moved to the US and as virtual setups became the norm during Covid, I resumed working with my UK network as well as US and global opportunities, so it made sense to launch my own business, Chrysalis & Co, which went live this month!

What do you enjoy most about acting and presenting?

I love connecting to others through a world of storytelling and communication. I am always growing from being thrown out of my comfort zone and working with such a range of talented individuals. As a presenter, I can thrive more as my own personality gets to shine more authentically, so there's less pressure. With acting, I relish the escapism it offers. You are so immersed in the character and their backstory, needs and desires that there is no space to think about yourself. It can be quite therapeutic connecting deeper than words on a page, interpreting subtext and bringing your own essence to the story. Although a responsibility, this can also be quite liberating, as there is no right or wrong.

How do you juggle both careers?

Communication is key! I'm also organised, motivated, and passionate about my work which helps. I'm old school at heart so love a paper diary to schedule and iCal is amazing for ensuring I work in the right time zones. I'd also be lost without spreadsheets. The freedom of not being tied into a fixed routine comes at its own cost, so work/life balance can be tricky, but I've tried to prioritise moments for self-care too. I have autonomy in other areas of my life to be able to make instant decisions regarding my availability.

With much of my work going virtual during Covid, it allowed me to be more time efficient. Now things are hybrid, so I just juggle as best as I can. My social life has taken a back seat for some time as a result, as when most are winding down for the weekend, my inbox goes wild with audition requests with tight deadlines. I am often working holidays, birthdays and try to be contactable 24/7 given the fast pace of this industry - so agility, keeping a calm head and remembering the end goal helps.

What have been your top career highlights so far?

There have been many, but it's all about the firsts for me… First audition, theatre gig, commercial, TV job, US role, agent rep, management team, my US move etc. My most recent ‘pinch me' moment was working with Neil Patrick Harris, whose show (Doogie Howser MD) I was obsessed with as a kid. Fast forward three decades, and here we were filming for a Netflix project in NYC with Darren Star Productions, who are a powerhouse in the industry here (Beverly Hills 90210, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City and Modern Family).

That first step into the US market after hundreds of auditions, where Covid intercepted my settling in period and killed the ‘American Dream' for a while, was a real milestone moment. It gave me the fuel to keep going amid some incredibly challenging circumstances of being a self-employed creative, a new immigrant during Covid and a turbulent political climate. Each first is a highlight for me as it signals a step in the right direction in an industry where there is no real road map or even feedback, other than whether you book the job.

What career advice would you give to recent graduates?

There's a chance you may not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate - and life can throw a few curveballs - but there is no right or wrong as the world is less prescriptive now. With modern life and Covid, there are more ‘outside the box' opportunities, so embrace uncertainty and follow your curiosity, which will reveal your purpose in time. Carving out your own niche on a journey of self-discovery can bring immense satisfaction (though not for the fainthearted). There are times it may feel lonely and you have to back yourself, but eventually you'll see where you are adding value to the world around you, and that will evolve into a career reflecting the many facets of who you are, with a highly enriching and diverse skillset.

These days, it's not as high risk to explore multiple interests that align with a skillset which can then be transferred to build another path. There are doctors who have become actors, actors who are teachers and teachers who work in crypto. Routes to success are less linear. Many successful entrepreneurs have been born through platforms such as Udemy, YouTube and social media. You can have it all; self-employment AND the framework of stability via a job until you figure out the longer term, so buckle up and enjoy the ride!

What's your favourite Kingston memory?

Discovering a ‘new' place that sold spicy chicken called ‘Nando's'. At the time, this was a complete novelty that I remember being very excited about. Living away from home, it was all about life's simple pleasures. In terms of the University itself, a favourite memory was The Colours Ball. The experience of dressing up like Audrey Hepburn for a glitzy evening at the Park Lane Hotel to cheer on friends winning sports caps was a night to remember.

Tell us something no one would guess about you.

I'm a born romantic and have turned my hand to many things to spin the plates of pursuing a career in the arts and keep up with the crazy cost of living out here during Covid. However, I never imagined that I would be connecting lonely hearts across the city. Working as a Date Coach to single New Yorkers searching for their soulmate came with an interesting client list. I was later promoted to Senior Matchmaker reporting to a Chief Love Officer (yep, turns out that's an actual job title).

And of course, I went full circle and licensed myself to conduct marriages in New York/New Jersey (a secret pipe dream). I've witnessed many weddings where couples have been rushed through their vows versus having that moment captured with their love, so what better way to bring storytelling to life than uniting couples on their way to ‘happily ever after'.

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