Katy grabbed the bull by the... reins (sorry) and is now using her impressive skill-set to excel in her dream job. Well done Katy!!
I don't feel very qualified to advise anyone on their own escape! My decision was largely an emotional one. It's all worked out very neatly for me because I had a skill-set which is uncannily appropriate for the job I was hankering after.
I'd be delighted to talk to anyone thinking about a big career change, in any relevant direction; development, travel, start-up, Bristol, Mongolia, adventuring....
Happy to talk around your ideas, put you in contact with useful folks in my phonebook or meet you for moral support. I also do a pretty diesel CV workshop, even after all these years.
I am the Event Manager for the world's longest and toughest horse race, the http://mongolderby.theadventurists.com" rel="nofollow">Mongol Derby.
Management consulting, specifically focused on executive remuneration. If you believe the premise that people do what they are incentivised to do, you could probably blame the entire financial crash on remuneration consultants. We were about as popular as tax accountants last time I checked.
I had been a recruiter for corporate finance for two years prior to this. Having sent innumerable very bright graduates on a path to corporate respectability and gained proud parent tokens, I had experienced a nagging feeling that my own career was standing still, as theirs gathered momentum.
Despite this I had thoroughly enjoyed aspects of the work; being a trusted adviser to client and candidate, having total oversight of my own little business (I ran the M&A desk and my own incentive structure was brilliantly transparent) and meeting and working with some brilliant people. The lack of analytical work made me nervous though - was I going to do this for life?
The chance to move over into consulting and learn some concrete business skills seemed eminently sensible, and the chance to do so in a small company was ideal. So off I went to join the proper professional classes.
I had had a creeping sense of misery, inertia and self-doubt within the first year of starting the job. But I had expected teething problems going from own boss to absolute office monkey, and gradually came to see doing repetitive and mindless work as safe territory- at least I wasn't making any mistakes.
Ultimately, I got no satisfaction from the work though. I made rich people marginally richer, or my bosses did. I just dug out numbers that allowed them to do it. Ironically, for a firm focused on the power of incentives, I only felt incentivised to keep quiet and try not to do anything silly, and could see no outlet for the skillset I actually had.
I also felt there was a gaping chasm between the value of what I produced, and in truth what a lot of our clients produced, and the price it commanded. I worked with exceptionally bright people, all apparently pacified by a generous salary to channel their energies and talents into the work I was finding so arid and frustrating.
Ha, I remember this so clearly!
I rode the inaugural Mongol Derby in 2009, and was in Mongolia for nearly a month that summer. On my return, thighs lacerated, tired but rather elated, I was hauled into a meeting room and advised that the out-of-office message I had composed, which explained that I was probably lost in Mongolia and wouldn't be answering my emails, was 'inappropriate'.
You can't ever tell a client that you are not picking up their emails. Even when you are racing wild horses across Mongolia. And you are the most junior person on the team who has never opened their mouth in front of said client anyway. I remember seeing red.
Corporate life was not for me. In addition I was in mourning after returning from Mongolia, a land where people have very different priorities, and ones which I found I sympathised with much more than our Corporate Titans.
I quit with absolutely nothing lined up. I am actually quite proud of this fact, and found it almost unbearably gratifying to say that no; I hadn't had a better offer from a competitor, I just knew this wasn't the job for me.
I had written to the Adventurists the day before I returned to work offering my services for future Derbies and explaining why they needed me, as someone who has been on the 'customer' side, someone with enough equestrian clout and knowledge to get all the horse-related conundrums right, and someone totally committed to the brand, the event and the company. They said they'd think about it.
I was actually working in Freetown, Sierra Leone by the time they finished thinking about it. A great friend from my OxbridgeGroup (recruiting) days had just gone out to Sierra Leone to work for a small and admirable charity focused on paediatric healthcare, and, overwhelmed by the volume of work involved in professionalising the fundraising aspect of the organisation, she asked if I'd be interested in joining her.
We were to be a team again. I was lucky to be in a position to volunteer for a few months and very happy to be doing strategic and enormously practical, rather than academic, work. I felt emotionally invested in the job, something of a revelation.
But about a month in to my 15 week stint I got an email from Ants, my immediate successor in Mongol Derby Chief-dom, asking if I wanted to come and lend a hand in the run up to the 2010 race. Ding!
There was actually very little to plan. Having committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of most career advisers, Charing Cross-crossers and middle-class parents, and quitting a high-paying job to go and spend it all in the 'third world', I was gainfully unemployed. I was lucky to have been in a position to save money during my time in London, and having never really settled there, my assets were conveniently liquid.
I had less than three weeks unemployed before leaving for Sierra Leone in February 2010. I decided to use this time interning for free doing something I thought I might be interested in, and worked for the fabulous travel company, Black Tomato, in their Shoreditch offices.
On my return from Freetown late May, I had about a fortnight back in my parents' house to pack up my London life, sell half my wardrobe on eBay, raise a bit of cash and move to Bristol. Expecting just a six-week stint with the Adventurists, I also spent some of that time contingency planning, and conducted a few phone interviews with travel companies I liked and admired whilst still in Freetown.
I had a couple of offers in the bag when I showed up for duty. They promptly asked if I'd like to take on the job full time and take overall responsibilty for the Derby as soon as the 2010 event concluded. It wasn't a hard decision!
The best thing is feeling like I have taken control of my life. I made an explicit decision that the value of my work was not the same as the price it commanded, and I would rather scrape by doing something I enjoy and value, and knowing where every penny I earn has come from and how it was raised, than just feed at a corporate trough and have no concept of where my work goes and why I am doing it.
I can't think of any negatives... apart from that I never have any money! (Sorry boss, it's true...)
Suit yourself! Don't be motivated by fear. Find an outlet that monetises your skills and interests. If there isn't one already, start one.
Look for the positive in everything you have done to date. Every opportunity will teach you something; every person you come across in your working life is a potential asset and to be respected. I developed skills in cold blood which I have relied on heavily in the dream job.
Whatever you are planning to escape to, think commercially. I reckon a basic understanding of corporate finance is important for everyone...
So a copy of http://www.amazon.co.uk/Principles-Corporate-Finance-bind--card/dp/0071266755/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300892539&sr=8-1" rel="nofollow">Brealey and Myers or Tim Ogier's http://www.amazon.co.uk/Real-Cost-Capital-Financial-Decisions/dp/027368874X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300892576&sr=1-1" rel="nofollow">The Real Cost of Capital is a good idea if you haven't come from that background.