MILLENNIAL MONDAY IS A WEEKLY SERIES IN WHICH I ATTEMPT TO ANSWER THE KIND OF QUESTIONS OVER 35S JUST DON'T GET. SUBMIT YOUR OWN QUESTION IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OR VIA EMAIL
I feel like I should be taking a lot more risks with my life. I have a pretty normal job that lots of people would probably love to have, but I feel like I've taken the boring option. Most of my friends work nine to five like I do, but I keep hearing of people who've started their own companies or quit their jobs to travel for a year and I feel like I'm wasting the best years of my life by not trying something new.
I took a long tube journey last Friday evening, so I picked up one of those free Evening Standard magazines and got stuck into an article rather breathlessly entitled 'The 20k-something generation'. I can smell a millennial think piece from 20 paces it seems.
The basic premise was that our generation take a very short term approach to career progression, and choose to move jobs more frequently than ever before. As a result we are failing to progress to roles carrying greater responsibility, and therefore get 'stuck' in the position of earning 20-something thousand pounds a year far into our thirties. Factors contributing to this career short-termism were listed as 'entitlement' (yawn. that again), dissatisfaction with inflexible or regressive workplaces (fair enough) and a kind of nihilism born of the idea that we'll never earn as much as our parents or buy a house anyway, so we might as well live it up now.
I hate to say it - I really do - but I kind of agreed with the snobby millennial thinkpiece writer on this occasion.
Add to the above factors the effect of the internet and social media and you have a generation of people who genuinely can do three jobs at once all from the comfort of their bedroom. And because you can, you very often end up feeling like you should. Endless Ted Talks emplore us to simply take the leap, start that business, travel the world (seriously Ted protect your brand - some of those talks are garbage) but is it really advisable?
I think it can be, but later.
This is not a popular view. The prevailing narrative across all the messages currently telling us to jack it all in and somehow make a living doing some vague kind of 'consulting' from a laptop in Tahiti is that now is the time, while you're young and have no responsibilities. Now! Get out there and build your new business! Your pop-up artisan matcha milkshake bar is going to be bigger than facebook!
The only problem with this being that the number one best way to learn how to run a business is to work in one. If you can find a good medium to large company to work at you can learn TONNES. Before I started working at my current agency I had effectively zero business acumen and no real understanding of advertising. Nil. Now, a year later, I would have to fluff it a bit but I could give that whole marketing consulting thing a go if I needed to. In three years time, I expect to know A LOT about my chosen field. So much so that, if I wanted to, I might be able to strike out on my own.
I don't usually side with the 40+-year-old generally clueless writers of puffed up millennial opinion pieces, but I have seen from myself the affect of career short-termism on friends and acquaintances. The impetus to 'take the risk' can lead to great rewards in the form of a more fulfilling roll in a new industry or company, but that same urge can also lead to a highly dissatisfying transient career path, jumping from one roll to the next without building any particular expertise in one area. The fact is the grass is not always greener, despite what some guy at TedX Utah may have proclaimed.
So I would say this: if you enjoy your current job and feel fulfilled by it, don't take more risks just because some self-satisfied bikini-wearing 'CEO' on instagram says you should. If, on the other hand, you have a hunger to at least see what it's like to try to go your own way (I totally feel you) then keep that in mind while you stick at your current job and learn everything you can and save up some serious cash. If you still feel the same in a few year's time, you'll be in brilliant position to 'take the leap', to use Ted Talk parlance.
Ways to feel more adventurous without quitting your job?
Join a class
I know, I know, this is hardly revolutionary advice but it's my number one suggestion because it works. A few months ago I joined a life drawing class and fell in love with it. Now a few friends and I make it a monthly fixture and get pizza afterwards. It takes you out of your day to day and makes you think differently. I would advise looking for something which will require you not to look at your phone and/or any kind of screen. Learn to sew your own dresses, dance with a fiery latin passion, bake impeccable choux pastry. Just do something which requires you to talk to new people and use your hands. Go with friends and make an event out of it.
Start a small, highly manageable business from home
Try it just for fun, or to prove to yourself that you can make money on your own terms. Try selling on Etsy, starting a blog (not a business for most people but challenging nonetheless) or tutoring other people in the evenings (I used to do this myself). It's a good feeling to know you are pushing yourself beyond your normal day-today routine.
Any more suggestions?
How do you stay motivated when it seems like everyone else is doing wackier, crazier, cooler life stuff than you? Let me know your tips in the comments below.