Teaching: a clearly defined, stable job; a clear career path; an exceptionally large workload
Working at a start-up: a job that changes constantly as the start-up adapts to circumstances – and a job that might disappear if the start-up does; ongoing learning; a heavy workload
The above are not exactly dictionary definitions. They are probably also a bit simplistic – but they do reflect my experiences, and the common perception of the two industries. Looking at them, you might wonder why I gave up a stable, secure job for one that is far more unpredictable, but no less demanding. The answer? Because of the diversity and responsibility start-ups have to offer.
An unconventional career change
I’m unusual among movemeon’s recent hires, having already worked as a teacher for nearly five years. As you’ll know from Adam and Jorge’s pieces, most of my colleagues were recent graduates when they joined movemeon. So why does a young start-up appeal to someone with experience in a different industry? Why does a career change to something less conventionally secure make sense? The simple answer is, because of the unparalleled chance to learn, make an impact and take responsibility.
My start-up learning started already before I joined movemeon. For my second interview, Rich and Nick, our founders, asked me to think about solutions to specific challenges facing the company. To be able to do this, I had to quickly learn about the online recruitment business and consulting, and I had to grapple with problems I didn’t even know of before. From the moment I knew the date of the second interview, I researched and thought non-stop – and enjoyed every minute of it. This was a different kind of thinking to teaching. I had no syllabus to learn, no known – and taught! – methods and techniques to fall back on, and, crucially, no 9-month period in which to achieve the final goal. (A-Level students have roughly that amount of time in an academic year to learn and prepare for their end-of-year exams.)
The business setting in which movemeon functions makes it possible to test solutions to problems fairly quickly, often even instantly. You can also measure and tweak a whole range of solutions, possibly even ones no one has thought of before. And there’s the chance to own entirely new initiatives, which is pretty exhilarating in itself. In the last three months, I experienced all of this. I have been testing and tweaking our newsletters, planning and trying new things with our blog content and search engine strategy, and learning, learning, and learning. And I’m just getting started!
So what makes someone change careers and move to a start-up? The immediate, unequivocally measurable impact. The thrill of new ideas, new skills, and new problems to puzzle over. And, admittedly, the weekends. As a teacher, I rarely had a full weekend, not even during the long summer holidays, because I was always preparing, marking, and worrying about my students. And I had very little to personally show for it at the end. (No one can deny that a student’s success is as much, if not more, down to their own work than to their teacher’s.)
At movemeon, at the end of most days I have something tangible to show for my efforts. I might not always get it right (although I’m certainly trying to), but I can immediately see the outcome of my work. I am also gaining and perfecting new skills every day, which is really important to me. And when my workday is over, my work is (mostly) done. You do not carry start-up tasks home like you do essays to mark, even if you do work long hours. If you ask me, that is a pretty good package.