The biggest threat to corporates might not be other corporates

How Escape the City is helping thousands of professionals escape soulless jobs in the pursuit of meaningful work

“My name is Anne and I have some news because today…I’m quitting my job!” The room explodes with cheers and applause. Anne is grinning with excitement. It’s 8:30 in the morning and everyone is buzzing. It’s a strange thing to be celebrating people leaving their jobs but that’s why everyone is here — to escape the drudgery of corporate life. Craving more meaningful work and fulfilling lives, men and women of all ages have come to learn about Escape the City’s programmes which help professionals find a different career path or start their own businesses.

One of Escape the City’s founding partners, Mikey, tells us how he wound up in a soulless banking job where he would sit in the office toilets on his smartphone, killing time and scrolling through the more inspiring lives of others. Eventually, he decided that the pain of doing a job he hated outweighed the fear of quitting and the unknown. Mikey isn’t alone — many others at this breakfast meeting are either ex-lawyers or bankers or are plucking up the courage to leave (here are the Top 10 companies British professionals are escaping). In a survey of 1,000 professionals, Escape the City discovered the following:

  • 71 percent want to have a clearer sense of purpose in their career,
  • 51 percent have experienced negative physical or mental health issues as a result of their current job; and
  • 64 percent would like to make more of a social impact through their work.

Escape the City now provides job listings and inspiration to more than 250,000 members and over 500 people have graduated from their Tribes which are 12-week, part-time learning programmes designed to help people take the leap by finding a new profession or starting their own business.

Participants on one of Escape the City’s Tribes

Their UK office is in Bank, right in the heart of London’s central business district — a real Trojan Horse. Many people at this breakfast meeting share how they’ve been Escape the City subscribers for years, working up the courage to take the plunge. And they represent just a small fraction of the thousands of exhausted and dispirited city workers yearning for something better.

For me it’s a reminder of the pressing need for big corporates to totally shift their way of thinking if they have any hope of attracting and keeping people. As I listen to person after person describe the professional suffering they’ve endured and their excitement about new possibilities, I feel hopeful. We really are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in the world of work and I applaud organisations like Escape the City that are offering people the much needed support in this transition.


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To preserve her identity, Anne isn’t the real name of the lady at the start of this blog :)