After closely analysing my working history - a history which spanned across several continents and various unrelated sectors - my career guidance councillor said these words: “You’re unemployable.” During my MBA at Oxford, landing a prestigious job at an elite consulting firm was considered the pinnacle of success - and I had just been told I didn’t fit the mould.
Being a round peg in a square hole, I (thankfully) wasn’t what the corporates were looking for. It took a moment to sink in. The career guidance councillor’s honest opinion was that I was unemployable. It was the Spring of 2009, and the combination of the world economy imploding before my eyes and being told I was a round peg in a square hole sent a "sinking" feeling through my body. I felt dejected. I had spent the entire year studying hard and strategising the next pivot in my career - only to be ruthlessly shot down. Had all my efforts been futile? I felt doomed, but, as always, the entrepreneur recognises opportunity in every defeat. At that moment I thought to myself: “Since I’m unemployable, I’ll have to be the employer.” While this was not new territory for me, having run my own businesses since I was 25, I would need to pull this off again - this time in the UK.
Fast forward five years from that moment, and I have been lucky enough to create six Mayfair based businesses, employing up to 100 people. So maybe the career guidance councillor helped me (in a way) and guided me towards finding my own path towards a career where I would never work for anyone except for myself. If that was her intention, she did a good job. I wonder how many other unemployables are out there who don’t realise that they are entrepreneurs-in-the-making - those that have intelligence, creativity and initiative but don’t quite fit into the corporate mould? Or are misguided to think they need to follow a conventional path when really they really need to embrace their round- peggedness? Being told I was unemployable, I've now come around full-circle.
When building my team - these "round pegs" are exactly the types of people to look for. The unemployables make great intrepreneurs. They don’t think like everybody else and they are able to view business issues from a truly dynamic perspective. An intricate, carefully balanced mix of unemployables and corporate types leads to a super-charged working environment and a team with the ability to tackle issues from various angles. Most people who work in corporations are so institutionalised and indoctrinated by corporate processes and ideologies that they lose the ability to think on their feet, be nimble, trial new ideas, and push new boundaries. I look for idea creators and intrepreneurs that can flip conventional logic on its head and drive innovation. These people bring passion, drive, creativity and contrarian thinking to business - this is exactly what I want. My experience of being labelled as “unemployable” cannot be an isolated case.
My business partner, James Caan, has done some fantastic work as of late with Start Up Loans - helping those with the skills to succeed who don't quite fit the corporate mould. Those of you that have been rejected the way I was 5 years ago should seriously think about standing up and "reject the rejection". Entrepreneurs are the foundation of our society - they create jobs and employment, and when they succeed they pass their wisdom on to the next generation of entrepreneurs, thereby creating a virtuous circle of wealth creation. There are 2.34 million unemployed people in the UK. How many of these people have unrealised ambitions to become job creators and wealth creators? The number of self-employed workers rose 367,000 between 2008, the start of the economic downturn, and 2012. This would suggest that when faced with adversity, those with the entrepreneurial gene tend to find a way. What was needed to make them "come out of the closet" was a catalyst. To unleash the full potential of Britain's untapped entrepreneurial human capital, we need to keep thinking of clever ways to trigger what I call the latent entrepreneurial gene that lies hidden in so many of us. We certainly shouldn't wait for a catastrophic global recession for the next wave of entrepreneurship to rise.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Britain is obviously evolving rapidly. With services such as Startup Loans, Seedrs, the Prince's Trust, and Tech Stars, the would be entrepreneur has many more places to turn today for funding and mentoring than I did 5 years ago. Being unemployable today may just be a gift - if exploited tactically, this quality could put you on the entrepreneur's track and and could save you from a lifetime of wage slavery. These days, I encourage my corporate friends to develop the humbleness and humility to take the dreamers, unemployables, and misfits a bit more seriously. As Steve Jobs said - “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”.