Rob Crews is on a constant search for inspiration, so much so he's launched a brilliant website, Find a Spark, where he publishes his research! He talks to us about following the crowds at university to the world of banking, to then quitting his job and setting up his own venture...
Fast-forward one placement year, an internship and a hectic final year of study - I resurfaced, exhausted but excited. I was starting as an analyst at an investment bank.
Why banking? The goal of maximising my starting salary was the most important reason but lack of direction came a close second. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do! The easiest option was to go with what was put in front of me at uni – a finance-dominated selection of standard career paths. Had The Cool Graduate existed back then, things might have been very different…
Banking could, of course, have been the right path for me. I know many people who are passionate about their careers in banking. It wasn’t guaranteed that I would be different – I could have got lucky and fallen into a career that fitted me perfectly. As you can probably guess, however, this wasn’t the case.
During my internship I had got a taste of investment banking, working in the team that subsequently hired me as a graduate. The internship was fast-paced and exciting, giving me hope that banking might be something that I could develop a passion for.
The thing is, I hadn’t got into banking because I thought that I had a passion for it. I had joined because of the money and, regardless of any other shortcomings, the money remained as a pretty strong incentive. Bonuses and pay increases were mapped out ahead of me, providing a constant stream of reasons to stick around a little bit longer. It was a spiral that I could see myself being sucked into. I needed to decide whether money was a good enough reason to stay.
I experimented by reducing my spending drastically, simulating life on a far lower salary. It became clear pretty quickly that much of my spending wasn’t making me any happier – it was just habit. I was unhappy with my job and felt like the money was meant to make things better. It didn’t – I realised I was ready to make the leap.
My initial escape route involved a pretty large safety net – I decided that if things didn’t work out, I could return to the finance world. My experience made me employable and a job with a better work-life balance might actually be bearable. It wasn’t an ideal scenario but it was vital in giving me the confidence to actually quit.
As things have turned out, the safety net has yet to be needed. My experiment in frugality prepared me well for living cheaply, stretching my savings sufficiently to allow me to travel and explore new career possibilities. I provided myself with an income through long-neglected poker skills, playing a few hours online each day.
I travelled to France, Germany, Iceland and the US. Any doubts about whether I had done the right thing were quickly put to bed when I realised how happy exploring made me – even on a tight budget.
I set up my website Find A Spark as a place to share those sparks of inspiration and the small actions that I had taken to turn inspiration into something concrete. I hope to help others overcome two hurdles – finding inspiration and avoiding procrastination when presented with endless options. I figure that if it worked for me, it’s a good starting point for others!
For those looking at graduate options, I’d say this – take a leap. Don’t ignore a career path that you’re passionate about for fear of not making enough money – if you’re passionate, you’ll make it work. Don’t fear making the wrong choice – a career isn’t a prison sentence and you can make changes down the line. As Neil Gaiman explains so perfectly in this commencement speech, life is a journey. You don’t always know the destination but if you sense that a decision will be taking your journey in the right direction, take the leap.
Rob is on a constant search for new sparks of inspiration, writing about them regularly on his website Find a Spark. He shares his sources of inspiration and provides guides on how to turn that inspiration into something concrete. From getting started with meditation to improving your memory - if he's tried it, he writes about it. He makes the mistakes so that you don't have to! Like Find a Spark on facebook & twitter.