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Notes from Last Night – “How to Build a Career Without a Plan”

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Uncertainty was in the air at the Escape School in Bathtub 2 Boardroom on Thursday evening. Luckily, Gareth Evans was on hand to show us how to embrace it, sharing advice for crafting a career without a plan.

If ever there was a man qualified for the subject, Gareth was the one. Hopping nimbly from professional rugby playing to digital content writing, via a stint spent confiscating kitchen knives at a kids’ camp, he was well practiced in navigating the unknown.

Misplaced cutlery aside, Gareth had some good news for budding career entrepreneurs. There has never been a better time to be branching out on your own – what with flexi-working and sabbatical options at corporates, and increasing infrastructure to support start-ups at the other end of the scale. More and more people are trying their hand at a variety of sectors, helped along by the democratising power of technology. And besides, we never know when another 2008 might rock the boat of even the sturdiest institution – it just makes sense to be versatile.

We’re with you Gareth, it’s a great idea, but isn’t it all still a bit… uncertain? The rugby-playing digital content writer elaborated:

1. Fear is normal.

It took Gareth years to work out that everyone else was feeling exactly the same as he was. Fear of judgment and inertia through indecision are almost universal experiences.

2. Refine the ability to blag.

Sector surfing requires mastery in the art of blagging. Even if that means frantically Googling obscure finance terms under the table in important meetings.

3. Find the right crowd.

It’s hard to face uncertainty when everyone else seems so irritatingly certain. Being constantly surrounded by well-meaning doctors and lawyers just isn’t going to help. Freelancers, entrepreneurs and other independents are a good source of personal energy and inspiration.

4. Pick a general direction, then be resourceful

Everyone has something they’re interested in, and the internet makes it easy to take interests further. Armed with a WordPress website and Twitter account, Gareth had 30,000 unique visits to his rugby commentary blog, which later landed him a job writing copy for Sky Sports.

5. Engineer serendipity

Making then taking opportunities requires practice. It is perhaps a stroke of luck when someone you don’t know emails with a proposal for work starting in Norway the next day – but it’s not luck that created that sparkling online profile that sparked interest. And it certainly isn’t luck that makes the decision to book the flight.

6. Take time out to muse upon life

Gareth went all philosophical on us for a moment. The most important work we ever do happens in our own head, he said. It’s hard to ignore all the external goings-on and concentrate on what really motivates us, but that reflection process is crucial. (It helps if you do this bit when out exploring Peruvian volcanoes, but any short trip out of the comfort zone would do the trick). The book Chimp Paradox by sports psychologist Steve Peters came highly recommended in figuring out the murky depths of our mind, as did Mel Robbins’ Ted Talk.

Most importantly, we have to remember that humans have an inbuilt tendency to over-plan, to compensate for uncertainty. On hearing a new idea or opportunity, our brains give us a five second grace period before the negativity cogs start whirring. Best get on with it then.

This post was written by Rebecca Trevalyan. Rebecca is studying for an MA in Sustainable Development at NGO Forum for the Future. On the side she’s a social entrepreneur in the making. Follow her progress on Twitter @libraryofthings

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 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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