Category: Work

Career options in the 21st century

I completed my A-Levels in 2007, almost a decade ago. It’s fair to say that:

A) There were a whole host of career options which I had no clue about at that time (which I now do – and only really have gained a proper appreciation for in these last 12-18 months)
B) In the last decade these “other” options have become increasingly typical, as others have woken up to them and transitioned careers to reflect what they care about, and the sort of lifestyle they want to live

In fact, according to the folks at Escape The City, a “21st century career” looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.25.30

At my grammar school in southwest London, as someone who had been reasonably “academic” at school with my grades being pretty decent (and also with the 2 hard-working generations whom had come before me), I had narrowed my career options to the following:

– Medicine
– Dentistry
– Law
– Banking

And that was pretty much it. In other words, something reasonably prestigious which I envisioned would be a safe and steady option and would lead to a well-paid career.

One major downside to “careers advice” and “career options” in 2016 is that we still live in outdated times where options seemed to be very fixed — e.g. “lawyer”, “doctor”, “builder”, “butcher” and stuck in the times when a job used to be a job for life, which is now not the case. In the last 40 years, we have gone from “a job/employer for life” to “several jobs in a lifetime (across different industries)”, and we are now moving towards “several jobs at any one time” with the “freelance economy” on the horizon. (Hence the conformity which school encourages is only becoming increasingly inappropriate & detrimental).

Careers/jobs are simply not fixed like this any more — here’s what’s possible in today’s world:

1. These traditional “identities” can now manifest themselves in a number of different ways

If you want to be a “writer” — you can be a blogger, you can write content for a company, you can be a journalist, and so on. If you want to be a “doctor” — yes, you can go down the traditional GP/consultant route, yet you can also work for a healthcare startup, you can find a way to scale your medical knowledge to reach a wider audience over the internet.

2. The portfolio career

As mentioned, there is now no need to “choose” between one career or another. Have multiple interests? You can now go for a “slash” career comprised of 2 or 3 (or more) parts. You can be a coach/speaker, you can be a writer/teacher, you can even be a lawyer/teacher.

Indeed, many of us are not specialists by design, and have a whole host of interests. (This TED Talk by Emilie Wapnick — “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” is eye-opening).

Recommended reading:
Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher
And what do you do? 10 steps to creating a portfolio career by Barrie Hopson & Kate Ledger

3. Solopreneurship

It is now possible to carve out your own skillset in whichever field / based on whichever interest(s) you may have, and then either build your own online audience from it, or work for yourself and take on your own clients. You don’t have to build a huge company, you don’t even have to have a business partner or any employees. Many people disillusioned with working in the corporate sector and choosing to transition in this direction.

Credit: Unsplash (via Pixabay)

Recommended reading:
The $100 Startup Chris Guillebeau
Screw Work, Let’s Play by John Williams
Escape from Cubicle Nation, by Pamela Slim
The Escape Manifesto by Escape The City

4. Entrepreneurship

I had no idea it was possible to pursue business at a young age, having been under the impression it was for “older people” who had experience under their belt and then magically went on to build successful businesses. With the rise of startup/accelerator programmes, enterprise schemes at school (e.g. Young Enterprise), entrepreneurship courses at universities, as well as programmes/funding for entrepreneurial students at university, in addition to programmes like NEF (New Entrepreneurs Foundation) — entrepreneurship, though not for everyone, is now accessible to graduates and young people in general.

Note of caution: there is a certain amount of glamour attached to entrepreneurship and startups. It’s really important to know the pros and cons and understand the bigger picture, before jumping into either one of them.

5. Working for a startup

If I had known that startups/small businesses was “a thing”/a genuine option, that may well have been the option I had chosen coming out of school. Being a small business, you get to learn a lot, work closely with some amazing individuals and really feel close to the mission of whichever business you are joining.

Startups are emerging not only in London but a number of other UK cities, and across every sector: from the “traditional” sectors of education and healthcare, through to “new” sectors such as Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing.

Recommended reading:
Why young people should seriously consider working for a startup

Though the landscape has changed a lot in the last few years and these other options have since “emerged”, careers are probably the farthest from linear and defined that they have ever been. The 21st century career is all about exploring, experimenting and zigzagging.

2016 is an exciting time for young people, whether coming out of school, college or university.

PS. Despite (hopefully!) being wiser now than I was 10 years ago, it’s been a fun journey :)

I originally wrote this article for the Thriva blog (it also featured on Medium)

The School of Life on “How to Find Meaningful Work”

“Our interests don’t manifest themselves spontaneously. They require us to patiently analyze ourselves and try out a range of options to see what feels as if it might have the best fit for us. But unfortunately, schools and universities, as well as society at large, doesn’t place must emphasis on this stage of education – on helping people to understand their authentic working identities. There’s far more emphasis on simply getting ready for any job, than a job that would be particularly well-suited to us.

Which is a pity – not just for individuals, but for the economy as a whole – because people will always work better, harder and more fruitfully when their deep selves are engaged.

-Alain de Botton, Philosopher & Creator @ The School of Life

Full Video:

Work- and Home-life balance

Whilst I rarely watch or read the news if I can help it, one thing I consciously read every Sunday is Luke Johnson’s article at the back of the Sunday Times’ ‘Business’ pullout.

Today’s feature looked at the business and home lives of entrepreneurs, and was titled “Business is business – but home life must stay personal”. Full of gems as per usual, here are a few of the key extracts:

“In may ways entrepreneurs can be full of contradictions: their strengths are their weaknesses, too. In particular, what can be a positive in business can be destructive in their personal lives.”

“The best chief executives I know are frugal in how they spend money, and know exactly where the cash goes. They believe all purchases are negotiable, and that keeping tight control of expenses is one of the secrets in building a successful company. But often this affects their behaviour at home. They see personal outgoings as “overheads”; they worry that everyone from the plumber to the nanny is ripping them off. They forget to enjoy the lavish Mediterranean holiday because they are obsesses about the extortionate price for the villa, the rental car, the meals out.”

“Denial and graft cannot be the purpose of home life. that is more about consumption – spending the fruits of one’s labours and enjoying the winnings.”

“… in my opinion, an appetite for hard work is a precursor to achievement in business. But this inclination often exhibits itself domestically as workaholism – an overwhelming dedication to a career leading to the impoverishment of family life.”

“We have all read tragic stories of tycoons whose children go off the rails – drugs, self harm, etc – and all too often because they received too many goodies but not enough parental attention.”

“Getting different aspects of one’s life in proportion is easier said than done; an ability to compartmentalise is a great talent but one, it seems, that only a few possess.”

“Unfortunately, the encroachment of digital communications means there is rarely any true escape from the incubus of business. In intrudes in the evening, at weekends, on holiday. Too often I have allowed a rogue email to spoil a Sunday afternoon.”

“On the BBC archive one can find a wonderful documentary called The Solitary Billionaire. It was made in 1963 and features J Paul Getty being interviewed by the comparable Alan Whicker. At the time Getty was the richest man in the world… His private life was a shambles – five marriages and deeply dysfunctional relationships with his children. Getty wrote a bestseller called How to be Rich. It is a useful primer on making money, but not much of a guide to how to live a fulfilling life.”

The full article is available to those with a membership with The Times, here.

Luke Johnson’s article made me think of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s famous proclamation of “I blew it” on his deathbed – a man who apparently “had it all” judging by Walmart’s huge success and the sheer abundance of wealth he had creased, and yet expressed a huge regret about his life right at the end (read more about that here and here).

It’s important to keep perspective and life a balanced life. Whilst building a company is a fantastic journey, and there are many inspiration founders and companies out there, home/personal life are just as important – if not more so. (And probably a defining component of one’s life, helping ground them and keep them at bay when it comes to their business life).

Why graduates should seriously consider working for a startup

A caveat: there seems to be a narrative these days which goes something like: “startup=good, corporate=bad”. This isn’t a narrative I agree with, as I believe every organisation — startup or corporate, small or large -‎ should be judged on its own merits



For many years, those first jobs that have been the most sought-after have been the ‘prestigious’ graduate schemes. In other words, placements with banks, law firms, and other large corporates.

Today, many talented young people are finding themselves on the notorious “conveyer belt”. But, after dipping their toe into the investment banking world (and suchlike), they are discovering that these places aren’t quite as glamorous as they appeared.

When reflecting upon landing his gig at a prestigious law firm, Peter Thiel is often quoted as saying:

“From the outside, everyone wanted to get in. On the inside, everybody wanted to get out.”

Thiel goes on to say “I really had to rethink what I really wanted to do. What was I really passionate about?” (his full interview is available here).

“But I think if I had to give advice to my younger self, I might still go to Stanford, I might still go to law school. But I would ask far more questions about why was I doing it. Was I doing it just for status and prestige, or was I doing it because I was really substantively interested?”
 — Peter Thiel (Co-founder of Paypal, entrepreneur & investor)

In fact, many employees (especially millennials), are ditching their corporate jobs to work for startups, citing various reasons for doing so. (e.g. see this engineer who quit his Microsoft job).

With 2015 being a record year for startup formation in the UK, there are several reasons why young people should consider joining a startup, rather than following the well-worn, corporate path.

Here are 12 of the best reasons*:

1. Greater job responsibility

Startup: Even at entry-level, you are given more to do right from the beginning. As the teams are smaller, you have more of a part to play — and are much less the “small cog in a large wheel”. Therefore, you will feel as if what you are doing is genuinely adding value. Yes, the learning curve is steeper, the challenge is often greater, but it is all the more worthwhile and the opportunity for you is huge.

Corporate: At entry-level you are looking at a defined ‘analyst’ job or similar. You might be doing tasks of some value, but you will generally have to ‘earn your stripes’ by carrying out more of the mundane and administrative tasks, before working your way up the corporate ladder and doing the more interesting stuff. This can sometimes take years.

2. More job variety

Startup: Within your specific role, your role probably isn’t so specific! You will be tasked with more responsibilities and your day-to-day work is likely to be more varied. Chances are, say your position is in Marketing, your work will extend beyond the marketing world and cross over to other areas. i.e. In this case, your role might actually be more of a Marketing/Sales/Operations position.

This gives you an opportunity to:

A) Learn more
B) Get more feedback around what you actually enjoy doing and/or are good at.

Corporate: Much less variety in a typically narrow and defined analyst role (or equivalent).

3. More control over your role & career

Startup: It is easier to get close to a part of the business that you are interested in, and to some extent ‘build out a role’ within that space. If you are hard-working and are a good fit for the company, they will want to keep you and utilise you both in the best way possible. This will mean you working in a position where you are happy(-est) doing that role.

Corporate: If you find yourself in a Finance role, for example, it is near-impossible / extremely difficult to:

A) get wider experience in another field and
B) manoeuvre yourself into another role.

This is partly due to the specific nature of your role, and partly due to the sheer size of the firm and the politics and bureaucracy that often comes with it.

4. Less of a hierarchy, more holarchy

Startup: This ties in nicely with the previous points. In startups, like in any organisation, there is a mix of experience within the teams. However, there is generally less of a heirarchy, and everyone tends to be taken seriously and have a say — both in the team itself as well as in the overall direction and mission of the company. Some startups have even actively removed themselves from the hierarchy model, instead implementing holarchy — e.g. Zappos.

Corporate: A rigid corporate hierarchy, with typically at least 2–3 years between each title promotion, and certainly 10–15 years (minimum) before you can reach anywhere near “the top” (e.g. Director, Head of Department, etcetera)

5. Your age matters less

Startup: Generally speaking, and partly due to their more recent emergence in the history of the workplace, a startup workforce has a lower average age (for better or for worse). More crucially, with less of a focus on “seniority”, your age is less relevant and less looked-at-between-the-lines at a startup. In other words, your age is less of a barrier. For this reason, if you join a startup after school or university and ace it, you can find yourself in a pretty significant role (and much faster than would be possible within a corporate). The rules are less defined and there is less bureaucracy — this can go to your advantage and you can find yourself way ahead of your investment-banking peers.

Corporate: As mentioned in point 1, you will most likely have to ‘earn your stripes’. It’ll take 2–3 years of work before you are likely to move upwards to a ‘senior analyst’ position (or equivalent), and even then it might be more of a title change as opposed to anything with more tangible responsibility. Frustratingly, your manager might either be someone a couple of years ahead of you (in age and experience), or someone who got the managerial role simply by ‘doing the time’ and being with the company for so many years, thus ‘earning’ the promotion through tenure.

6. Greater exposure to impressive individuals

Startup: Greater exposure to, and thus greater opportunity to learn from, these individuals. Smaller teams with more responsibility and less hierarchy also means that you get to learn from some really impressive people, both in your team and across the company as a whole. Chances are, the founder(s) will sit near you — possibly even a few desks away — or at worst just one floor away. This also gives greater rise to horizontal variance in your network (as opposed to vertical). Zak Slayback (Top LinkedIn Influencer on Education & Business Development Director at Praxis) talks about this here.

Corporate: Most of your interactions will be with your immediate team, which will likely consist of fellow analysts/senior analysts with the manager possibly being a level up from that (see previous point re: age and managers). All of which amounts to less opportunity for network variance (see above).

7. Startups are doing cool and exciting things

Startup: Funding Circle is revolutionising the outdated banking system. Pact Coffee is changing the coffee industry for the better. DrEd is transforming healthcare. This list goes on. Startups are innovative and disruptive, in some way trying to shake up the way things are currently done in their respective industries. The founders risked it all by leaving safe and secure jobs (often corporate jobs!) to put themselves on the line for something they really believed in. Is that not something you’d want to be part of, given the choice?

As a result of which…

8. Your are close to the overall mission of the company

Startup: And you feel it. Not only is your company trying to do something exciting it, but this is often felt in what you are doing every day. They are values- and mission-led in a genuine way (rather than having generic core values just for the sake of it). Your work is more likely to be fun and fulfilling, and you are more likely to see what you are doing as more than just a job, as you can feel that you are tangibly and meaningfully contributing to the lives of others in some way.

Corporate: The ‘company values’ were probably something you were given on induction day, never to be seen again. (Except when you browse the company website every once in a while, perhaps). The overall mission is more difficult to determine — beyond simply “making more money for ourselves, the Board and our shareholders.” Equally, the company founder(s) is probably sat in another office, another timezone or is no longer alive. At best, you might see him/her once a year giving the annual company presentation (possibly via video-conference, bonus marks if you see them from afar, on stage, in person). Even if you do know what the company’s mission is, it probably isn’t felt whilst sat at the bottom of the chain along with the hundreds of other analysts.

9. You get to see the bigger picture

Startup: Do you want to start your own business one day? (If so, you’re not alone — nearly 2/3 of millennials want to start their own business at some point. Also — take a look at some more interesting facts about millennials). Within a startup, you are much closer to Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, etcetera. You get to see how the departments interact with one another, and gain insights which could be invaluable for when it comes to starting your own business. This effect is even greater within a smaller startup (e.g. 10–50 people in size). You may even get to join an early-stage startup, and experience it as it grows in size.

Corporate: In your role and team, you might feel removed from the rest of the department let alone the rest of the business. Such a bigger-picture view isn’t possible. Not unless you reach the uppermost echelons after 20–30+ years with the firm (and, even then, you’re pretty far-removed from much of the day-to-day company activities).

10. You get to bring (more of) “yourself” to work

Startup: Many startups tend be more human and accepting of who you really are, and not just focused on “work”. Often, you get to wear normal clothes(!) — not suits — and express who you really are. Take this page for example, introducing the team at BEAR Nibbles. Yes, it is a company, there is work to be done, but this is clearly a group of people who are treated like people, and don’t have to put on as much of a “work façade”, openly expressing your interests and the other sides to you away from the “work you”.

Corporate: Suited-and-booted. “Professional” only and corporate-type-façade. You certainly won’t see employees talking about their love of early-morning raves on the company website…

11. You actually get to know the people in the company

Startup: With a company just 10–100(ish — it varies) in size, you actually get to know who the people are. Need to speak to Jack in Finance? He’s not just a stranger on the phone — you actually saw him at the gym last week… It feels more like a community as a result, even with a family-like feel to it, with a sense of camaraderie.

Corporate: Jack in Finance could well be far away, possibly in another time-zone. In fact, it can feel like you are speaking to people who aren’t working for the same company. Though a close team-bond can be fostered, a community-like feel on a larger, company-wide scale is much more difficult to achieve.

12. Check out some of these awesome benefits…

Startup: Startups have their own unique culture, and their own unique benefits to go with it — from free breakfast, beer, foosball tables and ping pong, through to meditation/yoga and office dogs(!). OK, not the most important thing in the world when considering a job, but hey, it’s the small things that count. (And the perks aren’t always just “small things” either — check out what this tech company did).

Corporate: Ping pong tables? A dog in the office? Err…moving on…

*These 12 points apply to small businesses as well as startups.

So there you have it. Working for a startup has plenty of advantages, and especially so if you are a young person about to embark on a career.

A smart thing to do is to begin by searching for a startup with a mission that is meaningful to you, contributing to the world in some way that you can see eye-to-eye with. (Watch out for a future post here on what startups look for when they hire graduates and school-leavers).

Working for a startup is no easy ride. It is just as much hard work as it is working for a corporate (if not harder), and probably with a lower salary, at the beginning at least. (Though often there is more transparency around salary — an extreme example of that here). There also tends to be more uncertainty; your role might not be so “typical” — every day/week is likely to be different and bring new challenges.

Working for a startup has a whole host of benefits.

Perhaps most of all, you can choose to work for a company with a purpose and mission that you can relate to and are passionate about, and can feel in the work that you are doing.

And for more and more young people out there, that alone counts for a lot.

This article originally appeared here. It also featured on Medium, with a shorter version featuring on NACUE.

Why getting a degree is probably not the best option any more

This week is National Apprenticeships Week in the UK (#NAW2016). Woohoo!

We have certainly come some way when it comes to apprenticeships. And yet – at the secondary school I went to (which I left almost 9 years ago – scary!), it was completely out of the question to consider any other route other than university.

Going to a prestigious university and doing a “decent” degree, culminating in that smiling photograph dressed in graduate robes and beaming parents on either side, feels like a rite of passage for many young people today.

"We're so proud of you, son!" (Credit: Mango Productions/Corbis)
“We’re so proud of you, son!” (Credit: Mango Productions/Corbis)
There is so much pressure to go to university, for a whole host of reasons. Not least because that is what the aspiration is, and it is often felt from all directions – school, parents, society.We are told this:

“University = Success”

And yet, in 2016, this is a dangerous message to promote. Whilst I didn’t come out of university with a degree myself (ironically, I am now studying a Masters), I witnessed how former school-friends (graduating in 2010) came out of university to a world they were not expecting, and seen how countless others graduating with top grades from Russell Group universities have struggled to find any semblance of a job in the field they were aiming for – or even one that they weren’t.

And I’m talking Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell-Group-University graduates, with 1st and 2:1s here, just to put things into context.

What the hell is going on?!

Back in 1965, things were different. Around 5% of the UK population went to university and so, no matter which university you went to or what you studied, this happened:

University –> Job for life

Fast forward to 2016, and university –> job for life has gradually gone from pretty well guaranteed to almost the complete opposite (indeed, the “job for life” is an outdated concept too – we have gone from that to “several jobs over a lifetime” and are approaching “various different jobs at any one point in time” – especially with the rise of the freelance economy and all indicators estimating a more self-driven, autonomous future of work. I’ll save that for another article).

The market is completely flooded. The value of a degree has, without a doubt, been reduced – which is especially ironic, seeing as the price has risen exponentially. (£9,000 a year in fees alone plus living costs amounts to the average young person being in excess of £44,000* or so of debt by the time they’ve graduated).

Yes, you get a student loan and, yes, the idea is that you start working and begin paying this off slowly over your working years. But the idea was that the degree would give you entry into work. Isn’t that what you are paying for – the bottom line?
“Being a graduate is now not a free pass to graduate employment”  – Mary Curnock-Cook, Chief Executive at UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service)

And that’s putting it mildly.

Another great irony in all of this? Employers are now asking graduates:

“Where is your work experience? That’s what we need…” 

Things have around full circle. Back in the day, apprenticeships were seen as respectable and noble. In fact, as this article describes, the apprenticeship was once the go-to way to prepare yourself for a career.

It is a great shame that apprenticeships are considered lesser than degrees, when the truth is that they hold so much value.

School and parents need educating here – in British Asian society, the notion of not going to university and doing an apprenticeship would likely cause upset and embarrassment; for a parent, it is seen to imply your son or daughter isn’t intelligent enough to go to university, that you had somehow failed them in some way.

(Another irony – this article is full of them – is that doctors, considered by many to be one of the most high-status, prestigious and sought-after careers, essentially do apprenticeships following completion of their medical degree by way of their two Foundation years (F1 & F2); every medic has to complete these two years at a minimum, before being able to practice as a qualified medical professional).

Also, the fact is, with the exception of the medical (and dental) professions where a degree is a necessity, in 99% of other cases, a degree is merely supposed to provide you with the foot in the door (along with all of those other things – independence, freedom, self-learning, etcetera – which university does enable to some extent but, I would argue, can also be found in other, less expensive ways; e.g. travelling).

The fact is – as soon as you have gotten your foot in the door, no one really cares what your educational background is.

Certainly a couple of years in, after which your graduate scheme (if you are on one) expires,
no one actually cares whether you have a degree or not. (Not unless you’re counting great aunt Bessie, who will always be ever so proud of you and will therefore care IMMENSELY).

Despite all of this, so often we hear about going down the “safe route”, and “having a degree to fall back on”.

To address this, firstly, in the 21st century world that we live in today, where you can showcase your creations through LinkedIn, a personal website, or a blog, for example, you can demonstrate your value in fair more effective ways than “2:1 in [insert degree subject here] from [insert Russell Group University here]”. And there are far fewer people actually showcasing their work in these ways (or, it should be said, doing the work in the first place).

Look at what Nina did to circumvent the tedious process of applying to a job at airbnb, along with the masses. Raghav Haran also gives some great examples of this. But these instances are a rarity, and provide an unbelievable, untapped resource(s) for getting ahead of the crowd and tangibly showing who you are and what you have done.

At the same time, leading firms such as E&Y, PwC and Penguin Random House are reducing their graduate intake numbers, and increasing their school-leaver numbers, for a whole host of reasons. It’s clear that firms are questioning the value of a degree themselves, and even realising that young people are more adaptable straight out of school.

Choosing an apprenticeship, or other form of work-based learning, is not only a valuable experience in and of itself, but also a debt-free one – due to the fact that you earn whilst you learn.

Instead of dragging yourself to lectures, continuing the traditional educational route where you learn to merely exams, at a cost of £27,000 plus the rest – why not get real-world skills and without the debt?

Compared to a graduate joining a firm at the age of 21, as a school-leaver joining the same firm aged 18, you will be 3 years ahead in terms of your career, and thus at an advantage already – and not shackled by the debt.

Why would you not consider this as an option?

All of this leads to one profound statement:

Whereas a degree used to be the precious commodity, actual experience in the working world has taken it’s place.

In 10 years time, perhaps the statement “go off and get some work experience to fall back on” will become the saying instead of the one that exists currently.

*Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

This article originally appeared here, and was also featured on Medium.

Passion > Status + Money

(With thanks to the numerous interactions I’ve had in the last year with my fellow Tiffinians, class of 2000–2007)

I left secondary school in 2007. Until recently, I had touch with many old school friends and acquaintances in my year group.

When I resigned from my job in June 2015, I knew I was doing something somewhat “out of the ordinary”, something which few were doing.

At the age of 26, I was presumably meant to have everything figured out, earning good money in a job I loved, thinking about settling down with a family, all of that societal-pressure-type stuff.


One thing that surprised me was the reaction of others. People can be nosey, I get that, it’s human nature. With some of the stuff I had been blogging about online, heads had been turned and people began to ask what I was up to — including those I’d connected with on Facebook at school all those years ago, and hadn’t spoken to since. Equally, I began reaching out to others who I saw were doing interesting things, away from the whole banking/consultancy/law/medicine/dentistry route.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one feeling a sense of discontent at that stage in my life. Here is what I have discovered from various conversations with my old school year group:

– A medical school graduate, having completed his two ‘Foundation’ years in a hospital, is now taking a year out to figure out what he really wants to do

– Another medic who told me how is he finding what he is currently doing unfulfilling, but feels ungrateful for this; after all, his career path and his work with people was, he felt, supposed to be a well-regarded and fulfilling one

– A Cambridge graduate (and a good friend), with a 1st class in a top degree, who quit his law firm job (at a similar time I quit my own), and has started his own private tutoring business

– I bumped into a management consultant (just two weeks as of writing this) at a Tech Startup event in London, bored of his job and researching startups and the world of entrepreneurship for inspiration

(- And several other conversations with those working for banks, hedge funds and asset managers. These sorts of jobs seem to work for some, but it’s quite clear that many have followed the path and, whether they want to admit it or not, are feeling pretty disillusioned with the whole thing)

Credit: Action Press / Rex Features
Credit: Action Press / Rex Features

The list goes on. In contrast, other interactions have included:

– A freelance film-maker who is pursuing business ideas on the side

– A freelance digital marketer who is pursuing a new venture on the side

– A freelance playwright working an office job alongside

– A theatre writer and producer up to all sorts of theatre-related stuff

– A theatre actor/performer

– A friend pursuing business, blogging and fitness



– A friend from primary school with a growing Dog Day Care business)

– Someone from my recruitment company — about a year younger — who quit before I did, to start his own fitness app / company

– Someone else from my recruitment company — about a couple of years younger — who has recently quit to start his own golfing scholarship business

The list goes on and on and on.

I have widely read that millennials seek greater freedom and autonomy, in addition to doing meaningful work that matters to them. This is quite clear from the conversations that I have been having with fellow millennials.

In short, what I have witnessed is a growing realisation that those jobs considered to be high-status and the most glamorous are, in fact, losing their appeal (and, that the glamour of Canary Wharf disappears fairly quickly — especially if it’s a job that isn’t so exciting).

The trend I am seeing is that those who have gone down the route of “doing what they are supposed to do” (i.e. a high status, high paying career — the type that fellow grammar schoolers seems to go after, and that proud parents seem to boast within their social circles) are, in fact, questioning — and acting upon — their choice of career.

(Of course, the great irony is that those working in some of these dull banking and consultancy jobs studied completely different degree subjects, and merely fell into their career — or rather accepted the first prestigious graduate scheme they were accepted on).

In contrast, those who have followed their hearts and their passions, and less the status and money, are clearly those who feel more contented, and satisfied that they are created an exciting life for themselves.

The “work your butt off until your 40–50 and then retired merrily” model is no a necessary one, nor particularly desirable.

So now a personal plea to anyone out there in their twenties, or currently at school and wondering what on earth to do with their life:

Firstly — no one (or very few) actually know what they want to do, so don’t worry about that too much!

Secondly – don’t take the path that you feel you are “supposed” to take (or, have even been told to take, as often happens in British Indian culture) and…

Finally – do what interests you, what you are passionate about.


For myself, and many others, passion holds far greater value than status and salary.

This post first appeared here.

5 Reasons You’re Better Off Doing Work That You Love

In the week during which a fascinating Escape The City report was published (available to view and download here), and also featured in CityAm, what better time to reflect on the benefits of discovering, and then doing, work that you love:

1. Work takes up a big chunk of your life

During our working lives, we spend over 40% of our waking time at work – and quite possibly much more than that (e.g. if you’re working in a high-pressure, long-hours profession, are a manager, or have your own business).

This is a fact we can’t get away from – guaranteed, you will be spending a significant portion of your life doing work. We also don’t know how long or short our lives will be. Crucially, people who are dying – or coming to the end of their life – often list the amount of time spent working as one of their top regrets.

Work takes you away from your loves ones, and the activities you love doing most, so if you don’t enjoy it, or believe that it is serving any valuable purpose, it isn’t worth that investment of time.

For example, Sam Walton – the richest man in the United States between 1982 and 1988 – uttered on his deathbed “I blew it”. There’s a lesson to learnt here.

See also: The 5 Things People Regret Most On Their Deathbed

2. You are more fulfilled

As Daniel Pink describes (in his book, ‘A Whole New Mind’) – “In the early years of the twenty-first century, several forces have gathered to create the circumstances for the pursuit of meaning on a scale never before imagine. First, while problems of poverty and other social maladies persist, most people in the advanced world have been relieved from true suffering. We live in an era of abundance, with standards of living unmatched in the history of the world. Freed from the struggle for survival, we have the luxury of devoting more of our lives to the search for meaning.”

(This is also ties in with Abraham Maslow and his ‘Heirarchy of Needs’, and the curious relationship between money and happiness).

As most of us have the basic needs (food and shelter) and an abundance of material goods available to us, fulfilment is becoming increasingly important in our jobs, aside from paycheck alone. Doing what you love will inevitably lead to higher levels of fulfilment.

3. You are more productive

Studies have shown (funnily enough) that employees who are more engaged in their work have a higher rate of productivity. As they are ‘in the zone’ more frequently, and hit ‘flow’ more often too, they accomplish more, and can can meet the challenges of their job with greater effectiveness.

4. Everyone else will look up to you

If you genuinely love your job, you are less likely to complain. Equally, chances are that you won’t begrudgingly complete tasks with minimal effort. If you work for a company with other employees, you will therefore set an example for the others around you. Equally, when talking to others at social gatherings, you will inspire them, and may well motivate them also to make a change and pursue work that they love (this is what happened to me). The world needs people like this to inspire others stuck within the conformity of the 9-5, (or often 8-6!) do-a-job-for-the-sake-of-it-and-because-it-pays-the-bills mentality. If you get my drift.

5. Your mental health improves

With increased fulfilment, meaning, engagement and flow, your mental health score will rise – and this is being increasingly backed up by the world of science and positive psychology. Wellbeing consists of psychological and physical health, and both are intertwined, so doing work you love will noticeably improve your mental state, wellbeing and overall happiness.