When I was leaving university, there was a very conventional career path for ambitious top-flight graduates. Find a multinational blue-chip company with a great graduate development programme. Hone your management skills with secondments to different functions rounded off with general management experience and time with one of the international subsidiaries. Emerge 10 years later with a smorgasbord of talents that perfectly position you for that first top job.
I tried my best, but following the dotcom boom of the 90s, the business world changed considerably. Large companies no longer offered jobs for life - indeed many abandoned their loyal legionnaires, ransacking their pensions and downsizing their soggy layers of management.
At the same time the world was becoming much more entrepreneurial. A new more agile and exciting generation of small customer-focused companies emerged and new brands were being “incubated” in start-ups that revolutionised the businesses they were in.
These companies were growing incredibly fast and offering fantastic career opportunities to top employees. A collegiate atmosphere, fostered in the first dotcom companies, was pioneered in the food industry by companies like Green & Black’s, Innocent, Gü and latterly Graze, Itsu, Ella’s Kitchen and The Collective Dairy, and those have become the places to work for those going places.
As for myself, I realised I was way too left field for corporate life. The forensic management of expectations, the consistent trickling of “good news” and the careful manipulation and positioning of “bad news” - essential skills of the corporate manager - were areas that I wasn’t much good at and frankly was bored by.
My advice to the new generation of high flyers is: mix it up a bit. Try your hand at the corporate machine, but remember, in the grand scheme of things, you will always be dispensable to them and working for a fast-growing entrepreneurial company can be a lot more fun and ultimately a lot more rewarding.
My new company The Coconut Collaborative is recruiting this week in The Grocer. If you’re smart and ambitious I look forward to hearing from you!
James Averdieck is the Founder of GU Chocolate Puds and The Coconut Collaborative.
Contact James at James@jamesaverdieck.com