9th Nov 2020
3 Min Read

Purpose and passion projects. An interview with Dan Reed, founder of Career Dad

People & Change

2020 was a year in which many of us found ourselves with more time on our hands. Whether it was shaving off the hours usually spent commuting or finding ourselves furloughed, the long-shelved projects we’d been putting off suddenly found new life as we looked for ways to keep ourselves busy.

As lockdown settled in, DIY outlets saw a huge uplift, searches for ‘how to start a YouTube channel’ peaked, and Companies House reported a 47% growth in new company formations. It seems that amid the pandemic, passion projects found their space to thrive. But for some, maintaining a side hustle, born of a mission-led purpose has been the norm for longer.

I spoke with Dan Read, head of digital and platform delivery at Barclays and founder of Career Dad about why organisations that support their people’s passions are truly the front runners when it comes to purpose and employee advocacy.

When and why did you start Career Dad?

Career Dad started in August 2019 when I was on paternity leave with my second child.

I’ve always been competitive with myself and had a drive to achieve. But I’ve also always placed huge importance on family. When I was younger I knew I wanted to be an active and present father, but when I entered the world of work, the two things often didn’t feel compatible. I was driving forward, focused on the career I love, but it was be taking me further away from family time. I tried all sorts to readdress the balance, from flexible working to therapy to work through anxiety and guilt, but it only continued as our family grew.

It just didn’t seem possible to be both a good father and good at work. I couldn’t find anyone out there talking about the issues I was experiencing so I decided to create Career Dad as a place for these conversations. A year on we have an incredible, supportive community.

How do you juggle a fledgling side business with your role at Barclays, and as a father?

it comes down to time management and not beating myself up about what I can and can’t achieve on any given day.

When I was building Career Dad, after getting home from work and bathing the kids, instead of falling into a Netflix hole, I’d use the time to work on the business. It was a case of figuring out what was non-negotiable – my career and family – and then making space in whatever was left to help me achieve what I needed to.

Did you encounter resistance from your employer?

No, they’ve been really supportive throughout. The topics I cover in Career Dad are all about finding balance between the responsibilities you care about and this takes a little flexibility from you and your employer. I think that ultimately through Career Dad, you can see how much of an advocate I am for where I work. The whole project was built on a love of my career and a desire not to compromise that.

I have had the conversations about whether my plan is to build my business to a point I can leave my job. But how would that work? I can’t run Career Dad without the career part!

How has running your passion project helped your professional and personal life?

It’s been amazing. Through Career Dad I’ve learned so much about the nitty gritty of running a small business which feeds back into my day job. Understanding first-hand the pain points small business owners feel helps me find new ways to solve them at work.

It’s also given me a more entrepreneurial mindset that helps me take more risks. It’s still within a controlled framework, but it encourages more creativity.

Do you find there are interchangeable skills?

Absolutely. The podcast is a great example. I’ve met and talked to so many interesting people. Having to interview them on the fly and facilitate the conversation while actively listening has massively improved my conversational skills. I take this back into my meetings every day, knowing I’m a much more effective listener because of those conversations.

Many employers discourage the side hustle – how do you feel about that?

I think its short sighted and a missed opportunity. It’s an attitude that harks back to an era that’s been and gone.

My Dad worked at a time when you joined the company at 16 and worked solidly through to 50, retiring with a pension and a gold pen. It just doesn’t happen that way now.

I spoke to a Gen Z student recently. Alongside his studies, he works as a supermarket delivery driver, trades Forex and is building up a following on YouTube. Will he want give 40 hours a week to one job? Or would he rather be able to find a role as head of digital working 40 hours a month while maintaining multiple revenue streams and pursuing other projects? Future generations are going to want work to work for them. This doesn’t mean they can’t fulfil their obligations, but it can help them better fulfil their potential which makes for happier, more satisfied employees overall.

Our thanks to Dan Reed for sharing his experiences.

Why do we peddle purpose? and nine other key workplace topics for leaders and employers, can be found in our 2020 World Changers report.

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