Back in 2015, we released an Escaping the City report on job dissatisfaction. In that report, we found that 71% of people wanted a clearer sense of purpose in their career, whilst 64% of people wanted to make a greater social impact through their work.
Since then, the desire for more purpose-led careers has only increased. But as Escape the City has grown over the last 10 years, the feeling we had when we first launched has crystallised. Our societal definition of success needs to change.
How are you voting with your time?
As individuals, we vote every single day on the world we want to live in. We do this by exchanging our time, the only finite resource we possess, for the type of work we do and the impact this has on the world around us. It’s no longer good enough to avoid working for organisations that are making the world’s pressing issues worse. We need to actively seek opportunities that allow us to make things better or solve important problems with our work.
But if you look around, you’ll find an abundance of “purpose porn”. Every company from the largest conglomerate to the smallest shop has a “purpose”, sometimes purporting to go well beyond the purpose they really serve. As individuals we have woken up to the importance of doing work that fills a sense of personal purpose and drive, but if we want to affect real change, we need to look beyond this.
Success in the 21st century is not power, status or prestige. True success should extend beyond a personal sense of purpose and fulfilment in your own day to day. As we start doing this at scale, we can collectively drive a shift in the system that prioritises healthier and more sustainable practices – both individually and globally.
This is what the next phase of the 21st century career should look like. And for this to work, we need a new group of pioneers to lead the way by doing things differently.
Introducing the 21st Century Career Rebels…
A framework for the 21st century career
For this to work, we need 21st-century career rebels at the forefront of the movement, challenging the status quo, and pioneering a new way of working. We need disruptors, change-makers, and mavericks who want to build businesses or work for organisations that think beyond their own bottom lines and actively contribute to healthier individuals and healthier ecosystems.
So what does it mean to be a career rebel?
At their core, 21st century career rebels are people who do things differently. They are committed to finding ways of spending their all-too-short and precious time fulfilling the unique potential within them so that they leave things slightly better than when they found them. They do this in a number of ways:
The 21st century career rebel operates entrepreneurially.
In a world of outsourcing and automation, the safest and most appreciated people are those who can create value without waiting for permission. Whether we are employees, consultants or entrepreneurs, the future belongs to those who can spot opportunities and turn ideas into realities.
The 21st century career rebel is visible in public.
The world of work is competitive and each of us needs to stand out. The 21st century career rebel doesn’t rely on their CV to define them. They know that the people who get the best gigs and build the strongest reputations for themselves have a clear public presence – outlining who they are, what they stand for, and what they’ve done.
The 21st century career rebel is connected.
The best opportunities come via people. The 21st century career rebel proactively seeks people and communities with similar interests and values to them. They know that generously contributing to the communities they are a part of is the most authentic way of building a relationship and receiving exciting opportunities in return.
The 21st century career rebel prioritises impact.
All our choices have an effect – either positive, neutral or negative. The 21st century career rebel filters for opportunities that align with their values. They create in order to make things better. They know that work without clear personal meaning is extremely unfulfilling. They find ways of doing work that has a positive social or environmental impact.
The 21st century career rebel defines success for themselves.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded by differing versions of success, yet we’re ultimately measured by our monthly bank balance, the 21st century career rebel recognises the contradiction. They know success looks different for each of us and uses deep self-knowledge to curate their own version. They honour their definition of success with the choices they make in work and life.
Much like 20th-century careers, this type of work resembles the well-trodden “travelator” jobs, and upholds the outdated idea of success. It relies on unquestioning employees who see work as a way of exchanging time for financial gain and perceived increases in status. There is little desire to make a wider positive contribution, as rewards are aimed at the individual.
Fortune hunter work also adheres to the traditional definition of success. The main point of difference from clock-in-and-out work is the approach. Fortune hunters employ more entrepreneurial and experimental methods but still remain focused on individual gain. Fortune hunters may feel a greater sense of purpose, but the impact of their work does not extend much further beyond their own lives.
Charitable cheerleader careers place impact at their core, aiming to solve bigger problems or make a positive contribution that extends beyond the life of the people doing the work. These types of careers rely on the current system, making it harder to do things differently or drive a bigger cultural shift.
So what now?
One thing that’s clear is that if we’re going to solve the most concerning crises facing the future of the world and the people in it, we need more 21st century career rebels forging a new way of working.
Thankfully, we know that there’s a wealth of talented and ambitious people who can make this happen – driving shifts in organisations from the inside, or starting new ones.