These days, unless you are a displaced migrant or a dweller of Subsaharan Africa, we are blessed with choice the generations before us only dreamt about. The jobs for life are no longer what professionals aspire for and instead we seek meaningfulness, fulfilment and the thrill of challenge. Money and status are still important but these are just some of the values we seek to tick. Job security (along with pensions, private healthcare, etc.) has become obsolete if your news feed comes from the sources geared for the millennials, while volunteering, sabbaticals and social entrepreneurship are selling like hot cakes.
So much has been written in praise of entrepreneurs and freelancers, taking a "leap of faith", becoming your own boss and (dare I say it...) "disrupting" one's career path that it must feel like a failure to stay in the same job for the last 5 years.
If you know where to look, you might have come across some pretty candid stories about what it's actually like to be a freelancer, but let me summarise it here for you. Being a freelancer or an entrepreneur is like crossing a sea in a dinghy: it's exhilarating for about 5 minutes a day and then you feel lonely, scared, under-appreciated and miserable the rest of the time. It takes superhuman strength of character to keep going and while it's worth it every step of the way, it is by no means plain sailing. I am a freelancer, I am happy in my dinghy, but every time I see a ship passing by, I fantasise about being on that deck, sunbathing and sipping Aperol Spritz.
You see, a corporate ship means a monthly paycheque, paid vacation, regular hours, private medical insurance and a pension plan. Typically, you have a boss and if she is any good, she'll help you grow - professionally and personally - while at the same time alleviating your responsibility when things don't go to plan. An office job means spontaneous access to a sounding board, healthy competition, Secret Santa and chocolates your colleague brings back from a business trip to Switzerland. It means lunch which does not require a washing up and a daily commute during which you might meet that special someone just by virtue of going out more. Most importantly, since we are social animals, corporate environment means office banter and communal environment. On the morning after the Brexit referendum I felt utterly miserable and lost. I don't have a partner or even a pet. I would have loved to come to an office where I could share my grief with colleagues and go out for a pint at the end of the day to decipher it all. Instead, I was at home and unable to do any work, I stayed glued to the TV screen, Facebook and Twitter, which was helpful but somehow soulless.
What I am trying to say is that today we are blessed with choice and it pays to take advantage of it. Remember, no-one is judging you (we are too busy judging ourselves), so make sure you re-evaluate where you are on a regular basis, especially if interesting opportunities come your way. Some people thrive in corporate environments and they should make the most of it. Others will never succeed in a large hierarchy, no matter how many courses, workshops and executive training sessions they attend. And there will be other people who can and will do both at different stages of their lives. Don't measure yourself by a common yardstick, be open with yourself and make sure you scratch that entrepreneurial itch or lean back in your swivel chair and stretch, complimenting yourself on being exactly where you want to be. Amen.