Thoughts and advice from GemCap Ireland CEO Conor Hoey for those at the start of their career, on the value of choosing a job you love, rather than taking the expected route.
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life: something I hear myself saying more and more when speaking to young people. However, I recently heard a story that showed an alternative perspective and in true grumpy old man fashion, I need to vent.
My bugbear emanates from a tale told to me from a participant at a South Dublin dinner party. For those not in Ireland, South Dublin sees itself as Chelsea/Kensington, a touch of Monaco on Dublin bay. A rather lovely, overpriced place to live by the sea, chock-a-bloc with the glitterati from the finest private schools money can buy. Anyway, people are generally polite, kind and friendly amidst the comfort of their tribe. But it really is a bubble compared with the rest of Ireland.
The tale involves a young girl who had just successfully completed her Leaving Cert (A-levels, pre-university exams etc). She received the highest possible grades and could have gone to any university to study any subject. The girl in question really wanted to study Italian and Irish and become a teacher as that was her vocation, something she had always wanted to do and a pursuit she was passionate about.
Upon hearing this news, the comment made from one of the attendees was: “What a waste – she could have become a lawyer or a doctor.” Even recounting this makes by blood boil. You see, what happens in a certain stratum of society is that kids are hot-housed and tutored so that they can become exam specialists and then can follow their parents’ vicarious expectations and join “a top firm” so that mummy and daddy can tell everyone over a nice glass of Malbec in the brasserie.
I realise I sound like a class warrior here. The son of a lawyer, I live in South Dublin myself, my son goes to a private school and I can often be found in a brasserie… so I can already hear the screams of “hypocrite”. Of course I am, but most of us are. We all must bend a little if we are not to break.
But please, let children find their own vocations. Don’t follow the herd – follow your heart. Too many of us fell into our jobs and we’ve made the best of it. If you can find a vocation that you love, you will be successful and, more importantly, you will be happy. Try different things, travel… the world outside of the bubble is infinitely more interesting and stimulating than the world inside it.
Having worked in large corporations for 25 years, I moved to a start-up 6 years ago and they have been the most enjoyable of my career. Hindsight is wonderful but I wish I had not smothered my entrepreneurial side by playing it safe in a big bank. For young people today, moving jobs is a much more frequent occurrence. But don’t be afraid to try the smaller businesses – you will learn more, get your hands dirty and gain experiences that will excite both you and future employers. When I now interview people, I don’t start with a deep dive into their working experience or manuscript of qualifications – I’m looking for the personality, the spark, the willingness to learn from others and grow.
At GemCap, we want people to not only enjoy their jobs but also their life outside of work, to become rounded human beings with a concern for others and the communities in which they live. The most important thing for anyone is to be engaged, whether that is with work, a cause, a pastime, a sport. If you love something, you’ll be engaged with it and you’ll be good at it.
Now having climbed off my high horse, I’ll just ask my butler to serve dinner.