(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)
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.