Society’s focus on youth achievement is a double-edged sword.
While encouragement towards achievement is never a bad thing, the expectation that someone should succeed and progress quickly early on in their career can be counterproductive for those still trying to work out who they are and the legacy they want to leave.
Additionally, it often means older generations are ignored when they want to leave unsatisfying careers to retrain in an area they see as more suitable.
This attitude is currently doing the rounds for Gen Z workers, many of whom are caught up in the unnecessary pressure to reach certain milestones by the time they’re 25: step one, graduate from university; step two, conquer the world. For some there’s a very real race to run a successful business and/or become a CEO by 30, thanks to the proliferation of awards for and profiles of young executives. And it can be unnecessarily disheartening if you don’t meet these arbitrary targets.
As a late bloomer, I’d like to present a case for why it’s okay to take your time.
Find yourself first
It sounds cliche, but knowing who you are, how you like to work and what your passions are can really make a difference when it comes to finding a sustainable career. For me, it was music. I used to spend all my pocket money buying vinyl as a kid and I also learnt to play piano and trumpet.
I studied banking and finance at uni; unfortunately, my heart said, ‘You can’t be a banker, you want to do music.’ So against the wishes of my conservative parents I started a bunch of music businesses from scratch that were largely about finding a market opportunity and executing a solution. Turns out I’m creative and I thrive in chaos and under extreme pressure, which made music a great industry for my strengths, temperament and working style. Over 25 years this took me from publishing to record label and recording studios, artist management to content technology. Until recently, I also worked as a DJ.
When I started frntlne, I recognised that my interest in youth culture and mentorship strengthened my contribution to the business, even though it was in a completely different industry.
Focus on experiences not the title of entrepreneur
Another thing that’s interesting about the music industry is that experience in the sector counts for a lot, even if you bounce around in different areas; you need to be around for a while to really understand it and create strong, successful businesses.
The other factor is that exposure to different kinds of experiences can often help you on your future journey. Experiences become the value that you create for yourself as you get older, whether you’re 15 or 55. Nearly every experience is transferable: learning a particular computer programming language may seem niche, but the experience of learning and applying that knowledge is universally useful.
In the music industry I worked with a lot of brands and one thing I learnt was how to provide value. With frntlne, I see the same issue in a different context: how can my education and training platform provide value for brands, workers and customers? I’m also happy to lean on my global business experience now that we’re expanding into more countries.
Be open to change
It’s very rare to find 30-year-olds who have had only one business or career path, but it’s also common to see twentysomethings struggle with changing careers. If it feels like you’ve invested a lot in a particular path but turns out you want out, do not be afraid of change. Be open to pivoting, be open to taking in new information, and be open to allowing creativity to flow. It’s a sunk cost fallacy to continue along a path that’ll burn you out or make you miserable in the long term, just because you spent a long time studying or training for it.
Personally, I love seeing older people becoming brave enough to leave corporate to do whatever they want to do and I wish society was more open to recognising that experienced people can become a business founder as a late bloomer in a different industry.
Gen Z is growing up in an environment with so much opportunity that it would be restrictive to become caught up in the mindset that you have to achieve certain milestones by a certain age. Without passion, experience and direction generated by the individual, these achievements are false goals. A successful, fulfilling career is one where you find out what you really want and can dedicate yourself fully to it. My advice? Use all the incredible resources available to learn as much as you can, and then let your heart tug you in the right direction.