Meet the start-up disrupting the way people change careers

With disengagement at work reportedly reaching peak levels this year, a desire to be doing something that makes a difference is said to be one of the primary motivators for people looking to change careers. So where should they start? We spoke to Becca Warner, brand manager for employment start-up Escape the City, to find out how they are helping people to realise their dreams and find a job with purpose

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”

These three sentences are taken from the now iconic Steve Job’s Commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. He finished by telling his audience "don’t settle". Find purpose, and love what you do - the basis of Job’s work and certainly the legacy he left behind. 11 years later, many people are thinking like Jobs, learning to understand the importance of purpose, and helping others to find it.

Escape the City was the brainchild of two management consultants, Rob Symington and Dom Jackman. Tired of the routine of their own jobs, they also shared a passion of wanting to help others with their work frustrations. 

In the beginning, they researched the most exciting job opportunities they could find, and collated them in a weekly 'Top 10' newsletter, which they sent out to their friends every Monday. Becca says that this newsletter is still sent, but it now reaches a database of over 250,000 people.

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"There’s a real drive to do work that matters - that makes a difference in the world, which solves a problem, or brings joy to others."

The newsletter is just one of the ways in which Escape the City are working to give opportunities to people who sign up for their services.

"At the moment, we do two things. We have a global job board, connecting people seeking remarkable jobs with progressive, purpose-led businesses from around the world. And we run the Escape School, doing workshops and community programmes that help people take practical steps towards a meaningful career change."

Read: The value of adopting a side-hustle mindset

Becca says that there are thousands of success stories since the inception of the company. From Lamia, who escaped management consultancy and is currently exploring cartooning and running music events, to Adrian, who left his job to work for a non-profit organisation in Malawi. So what exactly is Escape the City doing to differ from other career sites?

"In terms of our job board, employers who come to Escape the City to post roles know that our audience is looking for something genuinely outside the norm. We support those who put emphasis on positive team culture and their way of impacting the wider world."

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It’s this moral code that sets Escape the City apart from the rest, and it has paid off. They are offering their 250,000 members over 7,600 job listings that have been posted on the site from around 3,000 employers. "The shift we’re seeing is about working becoming more human," explains Becca. But drive for a career that makes a positive impact isn’t the only trend they have seen causing people to make a change.

With the growing issue of mental health at work, and topics of stress and burnout at the forefront of people’s wellbeing at work, Becca says that people are also looking for a 'healthier balance' with a greater understanding of wellbeing, now seen as hugely important considering the time we spend at work.

Becca says that the current business climate is making it easier to provide these new types of roles that people are looking for.

"We're living through a huge shift at the moment - it's a really exciting time. There is an explosion of smaller companies looking for talented professionals with a clear sense of purpose and willingness to learn fast, grow quickly, and leave their mark.

"It's challenging though - things are less clear cut than they once were. Gaining experience and exploring curiosities through side projects is more important than ever."

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So what would Becca’s advice to be for those thinking of changing their career path?

  • Do find a community of likeminded and supportive people who have your back.
  • Do focus on breaking things into small steps – it doesn’t need to be about making giant leaps.
  • Do find a way to take action, however small, to explore ideas, rather than thinking your way there.

In terms of what not to do, she says:

  • Don’t underestimate what can happen when you reach out directly to people or organisations you’d like to work for, even if they’re not advertising a role.
  • Don't fall prey to the naysayers who doubt you - turn instead to the people who support you.
  • Don't keep putting it off - it's never the perfect time.

Escape the City continues to grow from strength to strength, and is committed to helping people make the transition into work that matters to them. In terms of plans for the company, Becca says expansion and progression on their existing schemes is the focus. “We are aiming for more organised programmes in 100 cities by 2020. We also have plans to launch Escape Hubs that support escapees with co-working and co-living options.

"Meanwhile, we’ll be working on role-modelling how a progressive organisation can run, as well as driving the conversation around the future of work – collaborating with likeminded people and organisations to champion the widespread shift towards work that supports healthier and happier individuals, society and the planet."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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