“We only have one short life and we spend most of it earning our living. I'm not saying that everyone has to start a business based on their passions, I'm saying that there is a massive waste of potential out there and that people owe it to themselves to make career transitions into areas that make them tick on some level.”- Rob Symington
In 2011 FirstStep.me named Escape the City as the coolest online recruitment website of the year. It was different and desperately needed for a career market that lacks personalised career direction. FirstStep.me caught up with co-founder Rob Symington to find out more about why he started such a cool project along with the story of his own career path!
Where are you currently located on the planet? London, UK
You founded Escape the City an alternative recruitment website, tell us more and what exactly is your role at the company? I'm one half of the team that started Escape the City. My partner in crime is Dom Jackman. We met whilst working as management consultants in the corporate world. No prizes for guessing where the idea came from! I take care of commercial (growing the community and growing the business) whilst Dom leads on product (building a world class platform for our concept). We now have a third partner on the team - Mikey Howe - an ex-Merrill Lynch banker who is spearheading our New York operation. (FirstStep.me says cool stuff!!)
The idea is simple? there is more to life than doing work that doesn't matter to you. There are far too many people in the corporate world who want to make changes but they feel stuck. Our business aims to solve that problem. We connect our members with interesting organisations, like minded people and useful information that reflects their aspirations. It's not just about jobs though - people use our platform to help them start their own businesses or ignite new adventures.
Where did you kick-start your career and how did you progress to get to where you are now? I started as a management consultant. This was a good experience and taught me the basics about the professional world - communication, project management, Excel and PowerPoint (!) - however I knew it wasn't for me long-term. I also realised that I was capable of a lot more than what I was achieving in that environment, so I resigned to start a business. I wanted to take control of my working life, rather spend my time and energy working on something I really believe in.
In terms of the global economic climate, what are the concerns and opportunities that you see in the careers sector?
Concerns: lots of people in the corporate world are worried about their job security. And rightly so - the past 4 years have shown that when the chips are down, corporate job security is anything but secure.
Opportunities: Bluntly speaking, whether you jump or are pushed...I think the fact that more and more people are considering careers outside of the corporate mainstream is a good thing. Far too many people coast along in jobs that don't matter to them with vague feelings of "perhaps I should do something else." We only have one short life and we spend most of it earning our living. I'm not saying that everyone has to start a business based on their passions, I'm saying that there is a massive waste of potential out there and that people owe it to themselves to make career transitions into areas that make them tick on some level. (FirstStep.me takes notes!)
Redundancies: are awful full-stop, but if the economic crises shake a few people from comfortable apathy and old-fashioned career assumptions then that's a good thing. (FirstStep.me thinks this is a slam-dunk statement...nicely put!)
Do you believe that your daily working career should be ignited with a cup of coffee in the morning?...(FirstStep.me is inspired by coffee!!) I'm pretty hyperactive anyway so coffee is quite dangerous for me! When you work on something that excites you the buzz is addictive (probably just like coffee actually!).
What are the ongoing challenges you face in both business as well as tapping into the careers market with Escape the City? Our main focus is building a platform that intelligently caters to many different individual career aspirations and then delivery of relevant information. If we can personalise this journey we will be able to help a lot more people a lot more effectively.
Where do you see your career in the next 5 to 10 years developing into? Building a global community of people who use our platform to find work that matters to them. Have a big contribution to how careers are evolving for the better in the 21st century. And then retiring aged 35 to Portugal where I grew up to make wine with my Dad!
In terms of the working world do you feel that innovation is the key to sustainability or is it the good old “work hard and sleep when you dead” ideology that is better? I subscribe to the 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration school of thought. Ideas are important but execution is key. We weren't the only people to think of something like Escape the City (some of them have emailed us to congratulate us on getting it started) but we are the ones who have built a community of 60,000 people around the concept. Why? Because we've worked damn hard for 2 years.
What has been the most insane experience that has happened in your career? Being interviewed in Bloomberg's studios in New York on the last day of our 3 month stint in the US last year was pretty insane!
Are there any people in business/life that inspire you?
Sir Alex Ferguson.
What words of advice do you have for the youth of the world who want to take on a career with the sort of ambition that you have shown? Just start. You don't have to risk it all to try new things. Start small and see how it goes. It's crazy when I hear people aged 27 say 'well it's too late for me to change career now.' WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!
Actually, we have a manifesto which acts as a call for action for anyone in the working world and it applies to the youth of the world too (I'm part of the youth of the world too by the way!):
Finally if you could name your own planet what would you call it? Gaia
Find out more about Escape the City!