We’re starting a revolution.

Yesterday, I took the 7:03 train from home in rural Essex to London with all the commuters. Men, and the occasional woman, stood on the platform, under the grey skies, sheltering from the drizzle. They had dressed to match the dull sky, but I was told that when the sky was blue, they didn’t follow suit. People panicked when they accidentally made eye contact with me or each other. This routine appeared to have been drilled into these businessmen and women, it had become second nature. I felt this sense of sheer sad desperation faced with this army of ants that marched onto the train when it pulled into the station. I joked with my brother about the idea of having clowns or one-man bands doing platform entertainment as these people just looked like they needed smiles and laughter as medicine for whatever career ailments they were so obviously facing. Our laughter at this idea echoed around the busy but silent platform.

On the train, everyone was glued to their phones. Earphones in. Blocked to the outside world. If anyone found themselves being remotely entertained by whatever they’re watching on their phone, they immediately corrected their smile back to the straight face, scared of being spotted by another commuter as potentially breaking the mould.

I followed these ants all the way to Bank. Each ant negotiated their way through the underground and then out into the grey, not negotiating the drizzle for long as they filed off into tall buildings, their colonies. I then arrived at my destination, the Escape the City offices. Approximately 50 smiling people sat around chatting with each other, making conversation. It was buzzing. The room was full of people who had realised something incredible, that they needed to stop being ants. They needed to stop following the crowd. They needed to make a change in their careers, to search for meaning, fulfillment and happiness.

Introduction after introduction, these people all had two things in common.

  1. They worked for corporates.
  2. They hated it.

Some of them had hated it for 10 years, finding ways to pass the days, hanging out in the toilets for an awkward amount of time or strolling to other floors in the office, pretending to be busy. One woman explained that she was a lawyer and that she wanted to quit the day she qualified. That was 3 years ago, she had felt trapped, until now. One woman introduced herself and proudly exclaimed that she had quit her job that day. The spontaneous uproar of support was overwhelming. The sense of community within this group of complete strangers was incredible.

It was at this moment that I knew why what I have set up at The Cool Graduate was so important. I had boarded that train with these seemingly homogeneous ants who just looked unenthused, detached and blank. I had gone up the stairs to the Escape The City office and found a buzzing group of people who had confirmed everything that The Cool Graduate was founded upon. Finding and creating your path in life is hard. We need support, community and empowerment to find out what we really want from life. Pressure to ‘succeed’ and get ourselves on a path means that it’s so easy to get sucked in. Many of these professionals sat next to me had mortgages and children. Escaping the life that they had felt pushed into was seriously high risk.

I sat there among these corporates and I wondered what they would have done if they had received awesome support at university and graduate level, if they hadn’t felt pressured to apply for that corporate job. We’re young graduates, we don’t have mortgages, children or ties. We don’t have any of the excuses that had held back the professionals sitting around me yesterday.

Outside of the university bubble, the developed world is in the middle of a career revolution. London, Berlin, New York…it’s happening. The community is growing. Stories, ideas and dreams are being exchanged. We’re coming together, standing up and we’re creating change. The Cool Graduate is so excited to be leading the way for graduates to be part of this exciting revolution.

My first graduate job was teaching English in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. I worked 12 hours a week yet I was paid the equivalent of a full-time UK salary. Only a quarter of my salary was spent on rent. The rest of the time, I learnt French, made friends, laughed, hiked, snorkelled and got lost in the mountains…

Originally published at www.thecoolgraduate.com.