23 October 2020

Life after Downing Street: how to change careers in a pandemic

By Jimmy McLoughlin

When I walked out of Number 10 Downing Street for the last time I was optimistic about my future. I was about to become a father and, as former business adviser to the Prime Minister specialising in technology and entrepreneurship, I didn’t think I’d struggle to work out what I wanted to do next in my career. Boy was I wrong.

One year and one global pandemic later, and I’m still trying to adjust to life outside the Westminster bubble. In the process of trying to plot my next my move I’ve learned a lot about how the world of work has changed. We have seen a rise in portfolio careers, side hustles and self-employed ‘slashies’ who do multiple jobs (model/actor/blogger). With a surge in unemployment coming, this trend could increasingly become the norm.

There’s tremendous opportunity in these uncertain times, but it’s difficult to know how to future-proof yourself and your career. Even with all the contacts I’ve accumulated over the years, I’ve found it difficult. So I’ve decided to help others benefit from the wisdom of the business leaders I talk to. My new podcast, Jimmy’s Jobs for the Future, is a series of conversations with entrepreneurs who are changing the way we work. It’s based on the format of the briefings I used to do with the PM – short and to the point. I hope it will be useful for people starting out or transitioning into new careers, and for people interested in the future of work.

I start by talking to Hayden Wood, who founded Bulb five years ago. His renewable energy company is now the now the fastest growing private company in the UK and employs over 900 people. He’s also recently expanded abroad, launching in France and Texas. When we talk about a ‘green recover’ and ‘green jobs’ it’s people like Hayden who will make that a reality.

Bulb is just one of Britain’s many fast-growing start-ups. Retail corporates cutting hundreds, even thousands of jobs understandably make the headlines, but there are smaller companies creating hundreds of jobs a day. Before the pandemic we had witnessed a jobs miracle, but where did these jobs come from? They came from risk-takers starting new companies and making incremental hires along the way.

Private enterprise makes our country stronger and drives social mobility. But too often people in the business world are busy being innovative and don’t get the chance to get on the airwaves and tell people what they’re doing. Entrepreneurship is not easy. Behind anyone who’s had a great idea and the guts to pursue it, there will be feelings of doubt, imposter syndrome and apprehension. I hope that by sharing their stories I can help others have the confidence to take the plunge into something new.

There’s a wealth of opportunity out there and I’m trying to work out how to find it. Why not tune in to the podcast and join me on the hunt?

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Jimmy McLoughlin was a Downing Street adviser between 2016-19.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.