Why Millennials In London Are Stuck In Jobs We Hate

And what to do about it

I’m racking my brain to think of even one of my close friends who actually loves their job. Can you? Sad isn’t it? I believe they (and you) deserve to be doing a job that makes you happy, at least 90% of the time.

Turns out my friends are not alone in their misery. A London School of Business & Finance Report found that 66% of millennials felt they’d chosen the wrong career, and a more recent one suggested 60% of British workers were looking to change careers this year.

But the thing is, they’re not. Because I’m still having countless conversations (with friends and clients) that go like this:

Millennial: “I’m really unhappy in my job.”
Me: “Okay, so let’s look at what else you can do… Have you thought about x,y,z” (all viable and financially sustainable options by the way.)
Millennial: “Oh no, I couldn’t do those — I think I will just stick it out, I’m sure it will get better, plus you know there’s like my bonus coming up in three month’s time and I really need to book my next (and ridiculously expensive) holiday.”

Okay. Yeah because that is going to magically and suddenly make you happier in your job.

In your defence as to why you haven’t quit, it’s understandable that financial security is top of your list. In fact, 41% of millennials said financial worries were why they weren’t leaving their current jobs, and I get that. But I’ve always thought there had to be more to it…

And then it hit me over breakfast with a girlfriend. The reason why it’s so hard for us to quit our jobs, even though we really don’t enjoy them…

It’s because we’re a generation that don’t actually have anything. We can’t afford to buy a house in London because our income goes on rent (and holidays). We don’t own a car because we’re spending close to a grand a month to live in a shoebox with no parking in Hackney. We probably don’t have a pet because you know — London roads and landlords are a nightmare. We may or may not have a partner, but most likely we’re not married because a wedding is bloody expensive and we’re still paying off our credit card debt from all those great holidays we’ve been having…

We’re the first generation to be worse off than our parents.

Because we don’t ‘have’ those things that typically show we’re successful — a house, a car and a family — our identity is so closely tied to our jobs that we just can’t bare to leave them, even when we hate them. If we don’t have that job we’ve had for the last however many years, if we’re no longer a lawyer /banker / accountant /digital marketing wizard, then what are we and what do we have to show for roundabout thirty years on the planet?

It’s no wonder we’re so terrified of quitting.

So I’d like to challenge us to redefine our identities. So we can embrace being more than our jobs and let go of the fear of losing the one thing we ‘have’ and finally move into a job we love so we can have happiness instead. Here’s three quick questions to get you started:

  1. Is caring what other people think more important than being happy?
    Society (and our parents) like to define success as having a house, car and a family. And typically that came from slogging your guts out for a job you didn’t really enjoy. Is that really what you want? Is ‘disappointing’ your parents a good enough reason to not be happy? Or worrying that your friends might not want to hang out with you anymore if you’re not a hot shot banker? If that’s the case, I say get some new friends…
  2. What do you stand for?
    Ask yourself what your values are — what do you believe in? Do you believe in being authentic and living your truth? Is forming strong and meaningful relationships important to you? Is gender equality important to you? Or using technology to improve people’s wellbeing? Get super clear on what your values are and start to see the things you do in life and work as a reflection of these. What you stand for is a core element of your identity and it will help guide you if you’re unsure about which career you’d be better suited to.
  3. What’s the worst case scenario?
    Seriously what is it? If you quit to try something new and you don’t like it, well you’ve ruled one more thing out, probably learnt a little along the way and can either go back to a similar job to the one you had before, or (and more likely) it’s been a stepping stone to actually discovering something way better! Get okay with the worst case scenario (which is normally the situation you are in now) and then get open to the fact that by making a change, life may well get a hell of a lot better.

And just one bonus one:

Is the money really the problem?
I know I said we can’t afford to buy a house, but London is not the only City in the world. Are you only there because of that job that is making you seriously unhappy? And do you really need to spend the amount of money you do each week on meals and drinks out, holidays? Is there a way for you to choose differently — live somewhere new or do a different kind of job that allows you a different kind of life? It’s food for thought…