Have you ever been confused about what career path to take? I certainly have! Choosing your professional direction after university is confusing, ESPECIALLY if you have multiple things that you want to try out. We’re often put under pressure to know exactly what steps to take in our career, but this is the dead truth: nobody really knows often the ‘right’ course to take. We’re all muddling through, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
But here’s a crazy idea, what if you didn’t just have to pick one thing? What if you could follow multiple paths, and have them all make up the equivalent of a full-time job? Because guess what, that can be done! Debut Real Talk speaker Emma Rosen took a little more left-field path to the so-called ‘traditional’ career.
Emma is the creator of the 25 before 25 initiative, a goal which challenged her to work 25 different careers before she turned 25 (hence the catchy name). Prior to the challenge, Emma was working on the Civil Service grad scheme. On paper, it seemed like the ideal choice. It was competitive, a good salary, a well-known company… but truthfully it just wasn’t for her.
Instead she decided to sit down and make a list of all the jobs she’d ever wanted to have, letting go of the thoughts of logistics and boundaries. Within a month, she’d already started ticking some off of her list, starting with a role as an Archaeologist in Transylvania! She sat down with me to discuss her extraordinary professional life and more.
How did you find launching 25 before 25?
Throughout your adult life, your career is a part of who you are, it becomes a part of your identity. So when I started again from scratch, is was really hard. I sat down and wrote a list of all the jobs that I had wanted to do, without giving much thought to it. When I finished, I looked down a realised there were 25 there, and that number sparked the idea for the project. It actually fitted in really well, because I could give myself a time-frame to take action as soon I could, and finish the whole project before I turned 25.
The reaction to the project was quite varied. I went into some companies and they were forward-thinking, where as other people thought it was a crazy idea! For me, the media and creative arts are much more progressive about the way we work. I think that’s why I’ve ended up working in those sectors.
A big part of the project is looking at the concept of Portfolio Careers. Could you expand on what that is exactly?
A ‘portfolio career’ is the concept of having multiple jobs (part-time, freelance or contract) that all together make up the equivalent of one role. And they don’t all have to be in the same industries! You have the right to ask your employer to work flexibly, so anyone can take gradual steps towards a portfolio career. It can be four hours one Friday afternoon, where you look into taking an online course, or starting up your own jewellery company etc.
Gradually over time you can up the hours and delegate time the way you want, providing that you have the money in place to take a pay cut and more. It’s hard work, takes time and definitely isn’t a replacement to a 9-5. However, for me it’s a more liberating way of living as you get to choose your own hours and even your own pay.
You’re now an author, speaker and writer. Were these things you ever set out to do?
It was not ever something I set out to be doing! My friend’s mum said; “Oh, this sounds like a book!” and at first I didn’t take it seriously. But then more and more people said it, and it got me thinking more about the idea.
In the end it got to a couple of months before the end of the project, and I saw a competition from a literacy agency and I entered. I didn’t win, but fortunately I’d sent the proposal out to multiple agencies and one said yes! In terms of speaking, many schools and universities got in contact with me after seeing my work and asked me to come along and share my story. I used to really hate public speeches, but I’ve gotten better over time as I’ve gone on, and I enjoy it so much more now!
Your book, “The Radical Sabbatical”, will be coming out on January 4th 2019. Can you give us a quick preview into what readers can expect?
The book is split into three streams in total. The first stream is anecdotal, showing my full story of 25 before 25 and how I got through it. Some of the careers I experienced included being an alpaca farmer, a movie extra, an investigative journalist and a police dog officer.
The second stream is all about self-help, guiding people through their own journey and asking the right questions. It’s quite interactive, and has lots of exercises that people can use to help themselves, demonstrating how they can turn all of these elements into a career.
This stream also discusses the benefits of work experience, and takes the reader through the entire process of how to undertake it, which will in turn help bring them into the career they love. This section also focuses on portfolio careers; looking at how to set one up and how you budget for it.
The final stream talks about strategic government advocacy. It examines Millennials as a generation and why the stereotypes about this generation exist. It looks at factors such as the slow growth of earnings compared to the spike of property prices. Generations before us would earn to afford a home, but nowadays it’s much harder. So the importance of loving your job is vital.
What is the biggest learning curve of 25 before 25?
Learning not to glamorise jobs or make assumptions about what they’re like, particularly with grad schemes and professional level jobs. It’s only when you get there and learn for yourself that you see what it’s really like, and there can be a big disparity between the two images. The first time you experience that should not be straight after you’ve been studying for three years!
The work experience that I undertook has radically changed the way I think about practical career experiences. I think it should be a major part of the curriculum from the age of 14 upwards, and I think you should have multiple experiences throughout your life in a diverse range of sectors.
The importance of networking is also vital. It’s undervalued by most of us, and we never know if someone knows someone. It’s all about mutual relationships, and asking how do we know each other and how that can help you progress in your field. As an example, I met another blogger, got to know her and now we’re running a writing workshop in the Pyrenees together!
You don’t just need to choose just one job, or one career. And lots of people don’t realise that that is a practical or feasible option.
Do you have any advice for our Debut readers who are currently deciding on their next career path?
Talk to as many different people as you possibly can, and try some of the things you’re thinking about. Don’t start by thinking about jobs, but rather think about the type of person you are. Too often we think “how can I fit into this career?” as opposed to “how does this job or career suit who I am?”, and I think that’s why we often find we’re in the the wrong jobs.
Be honest about what you enjoy and what you’re good at, and find a crossover between the two.
Emma’s book, The Radical Sabbatical: The Millennial Handbook to the Quarter-Life Crisis, is now available to pre-order on Amazon.