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Putting Your Head Above The Parapet & Why There Is No “Right” Path

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This is a guest post written by Gareth Evans, the marketing guy over at FlashSticks, the fast and effective way to improve your foreign language vocabulary, instantly. You can check out FlashSticks on Twitter too.

Life is straightforward if you follow the well trodden path. The problem, however, is that nothing exciting ever happens. And that premise has always been what has kept me as far away from a “proper job” as you can imagine.

Laying the groundwork

I went to a great school. I had fantastic teachers, supportive parents and a great group of friends. School was fun and somewhat of a breeze for me; I did what I supposed to do, ticked all the boxes, chose the “right” subjects, got the grades I needed and was accepted to a top tier university.

And then I left school, which is where all the problems began.

Let me explain

When I say problems, I’m not talking about “genuine problems” as one would traditionally perceive them. I’m talking about the problem of finding the “right” path.

Some of you reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about, but for others, allow me to elaborate a little.

You see, leaving school was actually far more difficult than I could ever have imagined. As I said, school was easy for me, there was a definitive step by step plan for success that I was destined to follow.

Until I didn’t.

Your choices define you

Academically, I did fine in school. I always, since I can remember, however, have had a yearning to play professional rugby. And when I left school, that’s exactly the path I chose and I dedicated every fibre of my being to it. Because that’s the kind of person I am; all or nothing.

The only problem? That route wasn’t listed in the “acceptable” menu of choices for someone leaving my school. It was deemed fine to take a GAP year, travel the world a bit, have the requisite amount of fun and then get back to the programme, joining the herd and becoming a doctor, lawyer, banker, stockbroker or whatever.

In all honesty, I didn’t think a lot about the decision at the time. I’m a single minded person, I made choice and I stuck by it.

When things don’t work out

I had a great year playing rugby for Worcester RFC in their Academy. It was phenomenally difficult and harder than anything I’d ever imagined. Five hours a day of training, strict dieting and living and breathing rugby was, in all honesty, enough to put you off that path for life.

It’s 10 years on from that now and I can finally admit it: I probably wasn’t good enough. I was good, but not good enough and I probably lacked that insatiable desire to win that is required to compete at the highest level. I still watch games now and see players I played with and think “what if,” but if I’m brutally honest, professional rugby probably wasn’t for me.

Years in the wilderness

I won’t bore you too much with the details, but, even after leaving Worcester, I still harboured a desire to take another crack at rugby. But injury put pay to that and I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to find something to fill that void and replace rugby.

As it turns out, that elusive “thing,” you know the thing that is supposed drive you to commit in an almost psychotic way, has been somewhat, well, elusive.

Testing the waters

If I look back on the last ten years, I guess I see them now more as an experiment. And I couldn’t be happier about that. You see, over the last 10 years, I’ve tried my hand at a lot of things.

I’ve been to university, started a business working with disadvantaged people to develop their personal transferrable skills, travelled for almost 3 years while working as a freelance writer, I’ve written about city and regional economic development for a living (with no prior economics knowledge), I’ve run a rugby website that got around 30,000 uniques per month and I’m currently working with some start ups, helping to create their brands, as well as doing their content marketing and community building.

I’ve never been one for CVs

That’s a statement that’s probably been true since school, but I loathe the very idea of writing down everything about yourself in such a contrived way. And I haven’t had a CV for about 7 years.

Over the last 7-10 years, I’ve learned a lot of things. And probably the most important thing, which has taken me almost a decade to realise, is that the world doesn’t work on the basis of CVs and pre-prescribed paths.

Sure, if you want to be a lawyer, banker or doctor, there’s a fairly clear route that you can take and boxes you can tick along the way.

But there is another way, it’s just not that common and it’s not that straightforward. In fact, you spend a majority of the time feeling like you’re banging your head against a brick wall and flitting from project to project, always in search of that elusive “thing.”

Let me tell you a secret

For most people, there is no “thing.” There is no all encompassing, all consuming job or business idea that is going to give you unending years of joy. And embracing that fact is a thoroughly liberating feeling.

The conclusion that it’s taken me almost a decade to come to is that my “thing” is that I like variety, I follow my nose and when I get bored I move on to the next project. Maybe in future I’ll get lucky and find the “thing,” but for now I’m just enjoying every minute of the journey that is my life.

And the hope that I have for you is that you can say the same thing too. The very fact that you’re reading this post tells me something about you. It tells me that you’re at least interested in putting your head above the parapet.

I’m not going to lie, it’s scary up here at times, it’s a road paved with insecurity and self doubt. Overcoming that self doubt and embracing who you truly are as a person, rather than simply following a pre-defined path, however, is possibly the single greatest choice that you can make in your life.

Come on up, the air is clean, the sun is bright and life looks a lot better when you’re being true to yourself. And the price of admission is merely a deep breath and a leap of faith.

You’ve already taken the first step by signing up for the Escape the City community, what else are you waiting for?


What is Escape the City all about then?

Frustrated by climbing the corporate ladder, we decided to build a community to help people build meaningful careers doing work that matters – to them and to the world. We help talented people find fulfilling work by making big career changes, building businesses, & going on big adventures. We’d love you to come with us on this journey.

How do you get involved?

1. Job Seeker? Create an Escape Profile to get matched to exciting jobs.

2. Aspiring Career Changer / Entrepreneur? If you’re in London, come and see us at The Escape School.

3. Want to stay in touch? Subscribe to one of our newsletters. Find us on Facebook or @escthecity.

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  • Kevin Cooper

    Love it, just what I needed to read at present… my letters of application always have the phrase ‘despite my non-linear career path’ – I’m a teacher, and I know most Heads don’t like my maverick career – convinced it’s the main reason why, despite excellent references, evidenced high-level success as a teacher and middle manager, Oxbridge degree, good interview ‘performance’ etc, I can’t seem to get a job… beginning to think I need to go it alone and run my own business in some way…

    • http://www.flash-sticks.com/ Gareth Evans

      Hey Kevin. Thanks so much for taking the time to read the blog I wrote and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know exactly what you mean about not quite fitting inside the required boxes.

      My CV in the traditional sense of the word reads like a car crash. Most of the projects I’ve got involved with over the years have come through serendipity, so, rather than applying for things, I’ve gone out of my way to meet people and talk to them or go to events that seem interesting. Once I’ve connected with people, offers of work seem to come far more easily. In fact, my gig with FlashSticks all came as a result of me seeing the CEO speaking at an event and going straight up to him and asking if I could have a private chat with him. There was no selling myself, I just asked questions about their online stuff and said I might be able to help in some way, for free. And that led to me to where I am now. Just keep plugging away and maybe give a little thought as to how you can attack the problem from a different angle. If I can help in any way, just give me a shout :-)

      • Kevin Cooper

        Thanks for the encouragement Gareth :)

        • http://www.flash-sticks.com/ Gareth Evans

          My pleasure Kevin :-)

    • Lindsey Cramb

      I am on the path to becoming a teacher with the sole dream of it letting me travel the world. I think it’s hard for people to see that experience is a far greater tool for facilitating learning than having taught at the same school for 20 years. Teachers stuck in a routine and system of teaching cannot move forward or change at the speed children need to manage what their own future could hold.

      • http://www.flash-sticks.com/ Gareth Evans

        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Lindsey, it’s much appreciated. I have no experience of teaching myself, so it’s hard to comment directly on that, but I think the statement you make holds true in so many areas.

        Many companies are afraid to employ people that have diverse CVs that have seen them do amazing things, because they fear they won’t stick around for very long. The reality, however, is that the average half life of a job now is 2-3 years, so surely it’s better to get someone extremely talented for just a few years and have the benefit of their experience and energy, rather than employ someone who is mediocre, but will stay with you for 10 years or more.

        And if you treat these talented people well and give them autonomy, they’ll take your company places you would never have dreamed and may even stick it for the long haul. Surely, it’s got to be worth the “risk.”

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