Anyone who asks, ”what should I be doing with my days on earth?” has to be worth a further investigation – so I was intrigued when I received a copy of Charlie Raymond’s book, Hired, Fired, Fled in which he tries to answer this, the ultimate question.
Charlie, it appears, has so far spent most of his days on earth looking for the right job, a job he can love. To date, his search has been unsuccessful – and he’s had 14 jobs in almost as many years.
For me, while he writes amusingly about his misfortunes, to have the opportunities of failing at being a safari guide or being in the film business falls very much into the folder marked “first world problems”.
Charlie admits to being part of a generation that, if you’d been to the right school, going to university was expected of you. He is clearly restless and adventurous and, I thought, a prime example of someone for whom university was a bit of a waste of time.
I caught up with Charlie to find out more...
Q:Why did you decide to write the book? A:
I wanted to write something that I’d have read, aged 17 and a half. Obviously I can’t go back in time, but I can offer something to those leaving school and university, because through the stories in HIRED FIRED FLED you’ll be encouraged to think about career in a different way, to consider a global spectrum of options, and to feel comforted in the knowledge that others have got it monumentally wrong before you, without having died in the process.
Q:How important was your degree when you left uni? A:
Seemingly important, but it’s hard to quantify as I wasn’t told whether or not it was a degree that got me a job, or something else. Even for low level media jobs they seemed interested in my English degree, but God knows why – you certainly don’t need a degree to photocopy paperwork or do the coffee run. In later years it was useful for securing work overseas, but not 100% required.
Q:You had to do subsequent courses in your chosen professions after you graduated which seems to almost defeat the point of going to uni. Did you heavily rely on your degree to propel you to success? And do you think that doing the courses instead of the degree would have sufficed? A:
Again, it’s hard to say, but I reckon that if you know from an early age what you want to do, then you should jump straight into a vocational course, rather than study at uni, piling on debt. My vocational courses were integral to getting work in film and journalism, so yes, I think I could have done just the vocational courses and saved myself three years of English studies.
Q:You take on a number of jobs and roles, what’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt from all your experiences? A:
Don’t stress over needing to have all the answers at a young age. People think they have to answer the ultimate question – What should I be doing with my days on Earth? – straight away, but for many people it takes years; for some it takes decades. If you’re not sure what to do, try different things. Give yourself some time to figure out what you should be doing. Distance from a problem can often help. Go overseas. Take a job teaching English in Japan. Or shearing sheep in Australia. Eventually it should come clear.
Q:You mention at one point you’d been told ‘success begins with a degree’. How true do you think that is now and why do you think companies like EY and Penguin have started scrapping the degree requirement for entry level jobs? A:
‘Success begins with a degree’ was certainly how it used to be, particularly when university education was paid for by the government, but I think there’s a growing understanding these days that a lot of talented kids can’t afford university, or don’t need it. Clearly for some professions it’s an integral step, such as becoming a doctor, but in publishing it’s not, and it’s a good thing that large corporations like Penguin are changing their thinking, as the system is too weighted to those able to take on the expense of three years at uni.
Q:Do you think schools do enough to inspire young people about what they might like to do in the future? Do you think that would have helped you discover your career path earlier on?
I think there’s too much focus on gaining university places, and not on what comes after. There was certainly some career talk at my school, but it wasn’t personal and it didn’t dig deep enough. With a greater understanding of careers and how to succeed at them young people might be able to figure it out before leaving school. It needs more effort to introduce career choices from the age of 16, so that by the time you finish your A-Levels you’re more empowered to pick a path. It’s not going to work for everyone, but it might work for many.
“I wasn’t given much advice, except to try things, which I did. Lots. I think I’d tell someone to be bold, and to not compare yourself to your peers.”
Q:Your career path is not straightforward. Do you have any regrets or anything you’d change? A:
Many things and nothing! If I’d behaved more maturely and stuck it out at one of my earlier jobs I’d never have had the adventures I’ve had over the years, but I’d possibly be high up in a media firm, ticking boxes for what society deems to be a successful life.
Q:You do a lot of travelling in the book. How vital was that for you? Would you recommend that to young people trying to figure out what they want to do? A:
It was all I wanted to do. I come from a very international family, spread out across South America, North America, Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, and my father’s had about the most nomadic career path possible, so it was in the blood! I think it’s vital to travel, to take opportunities that pop up across the planet, as we’re born into a country, not tied to it for life. Some countries are more open to foreign labour than others, so seek them out. Head to Singapore, Australia, Canada, or Shanghai. If you hate it, come home. Try again. Just be thick-skinned and open-minded; but beware – it becomes addictive!
Q:The end definitely ended on a cliff hanger. Where are you going to be in 10 years’ time?
Some people are irritated by the cliffhanger ending, but my point was that life isn’t clear-cut with a Hollywood finish. Things are in constant flux, so I’m not sure where I’ll be in 10 years’ time; hopefully I’ll be a few books down, writing every day, comfortably close to a palm tree and a beach bar.
Q:What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and what advice would you give to 20 something year olds still unsure about what direction to take? A:
I wasn’t given much advice, except to try things, which I did. Lots. I think I’d tell someone to be bold, and to not compare yourself to your peers. Everyone takes their own path. Carve out your own, otherwise you’ll always be obsessing over the ‘what ifs’ in life.
HIRED FIRED FLED is the book for figuring out life, university, and the working world beyond. It spans work experience, studies, and 14 jobs worked in 15 years across eight countries in four continents. This book is all about answering the ultimate question: ‘What should I be doing with my days on Earth?’
HIRED, FIRED, FLED is available now on Amazon.
More information at www.hiredfiredfled.com