95% of people hate work, how did we get here?
Too many people I speak to who have been in careers for over 5 years, dislike what they do for a living but stay in the game for the pay. To basically cover the costs of their lifestyle while they hope one day they can quote on quote “be their own boss”. Let’s reverse engineer this problem and think about how the young people starting off in careers can avoid this dreadful delusional state.
This advice is for all the young people who aspire to be entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial in the careers they purse. Coming out of university is tough as it does not prepare you greatly for the world of work. If you took a year out to work in industry during your time at school, that’s probably one of the best decisions you made in getting practical experience of the working environment.
The reason so many people hate the work they do is because before they started working they never really came up with any principles to guide the career decisions they made. So I will sum up 5 principles worth adopting to help decide what opportunities to pursue (or not) for those with entrepreneurial traits.
1: Understand your choices
Do you want to work for a startup straight away? Or, do you want to join an established company where you can learn the basics?
Both have their advantages, but it does depend on the opportunities that arise for you personally. For example, graduates who joined Paypal, Youtube, Netflix and Spotify early on and stayed for a significant period of time have learned great lessons in scaling a company, growing internationally and seeing the impact of their work. On the flip side, I started off at Ernst & Young as a Management Consultant and gained a great foundation on how businesses operate internationally, stakeholder management and the foundations of business models and structures. So how do you decide between the two?
2: Understand who you will learn from
Your biggest influence when you leave school is the person you will be working for and the peers you will be working with. They will help mold you, shape you and you will learn from the shared experiences with them. You will make mistakes, and you will shine too but ultimately they will foster the environment you continuously learn in.
You have to consider whether they share the same values and whether you think they will be a good mentor and help you learn. Your job in the first 5 years out of university is really to continuously learn, so regardless if you go to a startup or a big company, find somebody you want to learn from. Probationary periods are not only an opportunity for your employer to assess whether you are a good fit but also for you to assess whether this is the right classroom for you.
3: Do you align with the company mission?
Are you passionate about solving the problems the company is trying to solve? Will you enjoy working there? Do you feel like this is a group of people you want to do things with at work and even socially?
The honest truth is that you will spend A LOT of time at work, more time than most spend with family members and friends. I’ve spent more hours at work than I have with my girlfriend, that’s honestly the truth. It is about work/ life integration before you can even consider work/ life balance. Therefore you really need to enjoy the people you work with and love the mission of the company.
4: Do something you REALLY like
Don’t get fancy with it, the first few years out of school you are totally allowed to ‘career experiment’ and try things out. I started off in management consulting, I started and exited my own business and now I am a Product Manager. The golden thread across all my jobs was that I always leveraged my entrepreneurial skills. It was just in different environments as I was figuring out what problem(s) I was passionate about solving, what environments I really liked and what skills I wanted to refine and double down on in the future.
In your first 5 years out of school you can try things out, don’t be afraid to do that. Continually assess yourself and do retrospectives, looking back at what worked, what didn’t and what you learned about yourself. It is really about discovering self-awareness and getting on track with your purpose.
5: We are all in the relationship building business
This was the one piece of advice I was given in my first career job out of school that I have never forgotten. Building and maintaining relationships is so important as the same people you meet on your way up, will be the same people you see on your way down.
Your reputation should represent what you stand for, what you believe in and what you want to be remembered for. When making difficult decisions at work, your values will shine through. For example, as a Management Consultant, I refused to work for Oil companies or Tobacco companies because I didn’t believe it was the right thing to do. I may have missed out on opportunity but I was willing to forgo those opportunities to stay true to what I valued.
In the end, who you are and what you stand for when the going gets tough matters. Do you do the right thing? I would encourage you to do the right thing, because while it may be inconvenient, it could loose you money or even loose you your job, in the end it is who you are and your reputation which is the only thing you take with you throughout your career.
Treat other people how you would like to be treated and avoid making decisions based on financial gain only but instead think through your guiding principles. These lessons represent the foundations your lasting relationships will be built upon.
Fear can become a cancer if it is allowed to fester and grow, there is one fear I want to share thoughts on around the displacement of workers by technology. So many looking to start careers or start a business recently have shared with me their fears around this topic of intelligent machines taking their jobs e.g. A.I. The fears in my opinion are not well informed, but rather irrational emotional responses.
It is true robots have displaced jobs in certain industries like car manufacturing plants in Detroit. However we must recognise the abundance of new jobs that are created such as Social Media Managers, Data Scientists and Engineers in the last 10+ years. Therefore in the next 15–20 years there will be new opportunities and jobs created.
To really take advantage of the opportunity ahead we must change two things fundamentally. One is our educational system which is more aligned to the industrial revolution rather than the age of information where technological advancements have been so rapid they have outstripped change in the many industries including education. The institutional design of this system is broken and is not flexible to change. Secondly we must dedicate at least 20% of our time learning and experimenting with new skills and new technology to remain adaptable for when change occurs. Bear this in mind and you will win!
QUICK PLUG: My inspiration is my mother, she became an entrepreneur at age 60, but she needs our help. She is raising funds to buy a shuttle bus to support low income families in picking up their children for Nursery. Check it out here: https://www.gofundme.com/juliets-nursery-mini-bus-campaign
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