Editor’s Note: I enjoyed reading this story. Alastair’s voice is a humble one, but his drive is undeniable. He simply wants to do what he’s passionate about without having to weigh through a bunch of bureaucratic bull.
Here’s how he found what he truly wanted by fighting against what he didn’t.
My definition of hustling is pushing yourself to continually achieve what you need. If you keep believing you can achieve something you desire, then it becomes something you require. Hustling is all about making sure you focus everything you do towards achieving that one goal. For me, this is epitomised by constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Once you reach beyond your comfort zone, it all becomes real and you can’t stop pushing yourself towards accomplishing that objective.
My professional experience is fairly limited, but as an aspiring business student I was always seeking an opportunity to become part of a real firm, to play a role in the big corporate jungle. As part of a five year degree I was not required to consider an internship until the summer after my penultimate year. At that point, my degree would require that I be in overseas country studying a foreign language and culture. Had I decided then that I was in the wrong area after undertaking some form of work experience, I would have already wasted four years of my life. Consequently, I decided to take the initiative, searching for other professional experiences in my second year.
Further, I held the belief that the chance to work in a large firm would help me to understand what I wanted to do with my qualifications after I finished my degree. However, due to the lack of demand for students with less academic experience, it was far more difficult to find a suitable position. So, naturally, when I was able to acquire a position at a multinational insurance company, I was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity. Beginning in the winter I was to join part of the control and compliance department. This department was supposedly the best suited to my experience and interests.
Going in with such lofty expectations of being able to help define myself, I came out disappointed. After a few weeks I began to question my decision. I was in the smallest department of the firm and was removed from all financial aspects of the firm’s operation. I was mostly responsible for ensuring that reports were filed as per the required perceptions, but, having signed a contract for my tenure, I was left with very few options but to stick with it.
One thing that my time at secondary and tertiary education had never prepared me for was addressing the power divide between employers and employees. I was always fearful of interacting with my boss, and indeed this issue is one of the most commonly mentioned problems in the workplace by all adults. However scared I was, I knew I needed to overcome my fears and bring up my issues with my supervisor.
This was a large step out of my comfort zone (and I still believe there is a large potential for this problem to be addressed by entrepreneurs), but thankfully my boss was fairly open with me. He suggested that I continue to work but take note of all the things I wasn’t enjoying. I continued my tasks and filled up the list, and after another week I presented him with it. Upon seeing the list and its rather lengthy nature, he expressed his disappointment that I wasn’t taking the opportunity seriously and became increasingly distant and unhelpful.
This left me in an awkward position, stuck doing uninteresting work with no one to help out. I had to challenge myself. I sought out a meeting with my supervisor’s boss, the regional head of the company. Discussions centred on what I should focus my efforts on, but with some prompting I was able to allow myself to be shared between the compliance and also the research department. With the added workload related to corporate and industry research, I found the job slightly more enjoyable.
Moving forward into the next month, I aimed to dedicate more time towards research tasks, but was continually reminded of the need to complete all the compliance activities. Meanwhile, I was communicating about my issues with my peers. This resulted in another work opportunity where I was able to earn some work experience with the Founder Institute. This is a program dedicated to accelerating the development of start-up companies.
I worked at this institute, helping gain insight into the requirements of running a successful start-up company alongside my work at the insurance company. I found that working with the program was extremely helpful, as I was able to integrate concepts that were used in the teachings from the institute and apply them at my insurance company.
I became more interested in the start-up scene, attending events such as the Sydney Showcase, where entrepreneurial pitches took place. The founders themselves were the ultimate hustlers.
Often, I would hear stories of how they had given up their full time jobs and dropped out of university degrees to pursue their concepts. The founders would throw away everything, leaping out of their own comfort zones to push their ideas. Their stories made me feel very safe and I kept pushing at work. Finally, I was able to negotiate to leave the legal department. I had earned my place as a full time worker as part of the research department.
Still balancing the Founder Institute and full time work, I got to the point where, even though the insurance work was interesting, I had a hunger to start a project of my own. Asking my new boss if there were any projects that I would be able to work on as part of the team, I was able to encourage him that I could help out with the macroeconomic review of the Australian economy and industries. I pursued this with great drive.
However, over time I became disappointed with the progress of the rest of the team until I decided to take it up with my new boss. Within our meeting, the opportunity for me to become the project lead came up and I took it. I had never been entirely responsible for the completion of a project before. This wasn’t anywhere near my comfort zone.
Working with the others in my department, I set small goals and deadlines for reaching completion of the project by the target date. This was an all-new challenge for me, but I kept pushing myself and my team to meet the goals. Over time, the report was realised and finally, with everyone’s collaboration, we were able to deliver the final copy as per the schedule. Upon its completion I was lauded for the way in which I had conducted the process.
At the finalisation of the report I made a decision to leave the company, and am now looking for new projects to undertake to help me define myself and what I can achieve. I am enjoying the challenges that university is providing and am continuing to consider ways in which I can market a product that will address the divide between boss and employee.