Building fulfilling work lives for the next generation

6 min readMar 30, 2021
A rainbow of coloured chalk against a black background
Photo via Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

On top of helping fast-growth businesses scale both sustainably and successfully through People + Culture, a key element of our mission at Unleashed is to create fulfilling work lives to boot!

So, in honour of National Careers Week which took place earlier this month, we were keen to deepen our understanding of the future of work — and, for a change, focus our attention not on what the workplace of the future will look like, but instead, on the people who will be working in it.

Are we setting our young people up well enough to live fulfilling work lives when they begin their journey as adults?

We selected three awesome founders from our network to answer this question for us. All three of the founders we’re featuring below have dedicated their working lives to improving the futures of young people. Read on for some fabulous advice for the younger generations on the skills they can develop to enable an rich and fulfilling career — and plenty of gold to apply to your own learning journey too!

Founder number 1: Ed Kirwan, CEO + Founder — Empathy Week

Previously a science teacher in North London for a number of years, Ed left the classroom to pursue filmmaking, with a focus on changing attitudes towards homelessness. It was working with an organisation called Slum Soccer in India in April 2019 that first inspired his current project — and, after combining his filming abilities with his knowledge of education, the Empathy Week programme was born. First delivered in February 2020, Empathy Week is building and developing the next generation of empathetic leaders through the power of film. Each year, there are 5 films which focus on the life stories of 5 individuals which students engage with before taking on their own empathy action projects. The programme has so far reached 48 countries across 6 continents and thousands of classrooms. Find out more here.

Q.1: How well are we currently setting up our young people to have fulfilling and enriching careers?

We’re not at all. The education system is failing. Running students through an examination wheel because good grades is what society deems as success. Passions and creativity are being crushed when every single company and workforce wants employees who can solve problems and bring energy into their work. We need to re-evaluate what education is trying to achieve. If we can centre it around passion, purpose and creativity, we will find that not only will we have young people in fulfilling careers but we will have a happier, more productive and content population.

Q:2 What skill would you advise young people to focus on developing to enable them to have a fulfilling and enriching career?

Empathy is my top skill (unsurprisingly). It’s important to flesh out what I mean by empathy here. It is not kindness or compassion (though they’re related). Empathy is the ability to understand someone completely different from yourself. It’s the ability to pick up on human interactions which can strengthen your ability to work with another and lead with integrity. Developing empathy allows for you to actively seek out different opinions and views — understanding that you don’t have to agree with everyone but you do need to listen to everyone. With empathy you will become a better leader of yourself and others — the cornerstone of any fulfilling career.

Founder number 2: Henry May, CEO + Co-Founder — CoSchool

Having worked in London’s secondary schools as part of the Teach First programme, Henry then took the leap to move to Latin America, working in Colombia’s education system. In 2011, Henry founded The Huracan Foundation — names after his favourite Argentine football club — who aim to change worlds through the power of football, and currently operate charitably in 14 countries across 4 continents.

Henry then founded Co-School to address the alarming character & social/emotional skills gap that exists in schools in Colombia. They design and carry out social emotional learning processes to promote the wellbeing of young people, educators and leaders in Latin America, with a vision to create and promote a world where social and emotional development is a pillar for learning, individual and collective wellbeing, and the positive transformation of society.

Q.1 How well are we currently setting up our young people to have fulfilling and enriching careers?

In Colombia and Latin America, the short answer is: not well. Schools are not fit for purpose and change is frustratingly slow in the Education sector, where we continue to choose “order” over “freedom”, and “competition” over “collaboration”. It seems clear now from research and evidence on productivity and well-being that schools need to stop focusing on knowledge transfer/acquisition, and become places to nurture social & emotional skills (particularly collaboration with others, and self-awareness), flexible mindsets, and intrinsic motivation. Until we do that, we’ll continue to have huge swathes of adults stumbling through unfulfilling and unhappy careers, or not having a career at all.

Q.2 What skill would you advise young people to focus on developing to enable them to have a fulfilling and enriching career?

I think it all starts with self-awareness. Sure, no kid wants to be constantly asked “So, who are you? What makes you different?”, but there are ways to intentionally develop the skill of zooming out from ourselves and assessing who we are, where we’re going, and what we’re good at. From learning a little mindfulness to honing the skill of asking for help on something specific, if we could increase every 15 year old’s understanding and application of self-awareness, I believe we’d see radical differences in their attitudes, choices, and behaviours when it comes to beginning their careers. Risk-taking is vital too, but you only allowed me to choose one!

Founder number 3: Charlie Stainforth, CEO + Co-Founder — Circl

Circl co-founder Charlie started his career working with young adults from underrepresented groups. He quickly learnt that there were many aspects blocking their access to professional careers, including a lack of communication, leadership and people skills. This was mainly owing to the fact that time in education is entirely focused on exams — teachers recognise the importance of people skills, but have little time to teach them.

Circl was launched around a core belief in a new kind of leadership; in leaders who look different, act differently and are different. They are on a mission to build a world where anyone, regardless of their background, can learn to lead. They believe the way to get there is through real world coaching experience alongside the next generation of diverse leaders.

Q.1: How well are we currently setting up our young people to have fulfilling and enriching careers?

We’ve come a long way from when your future career was pulled out of a hat for you by a disgruntled careers advisor after a basic personality test, but in terms of opportunities for young people to really explore what words like career, fulfilling & enriching mean to them, there’s a lot to be desired. I’m excited for when there’s scheduled time in schools, uni’s, colleges, jobs, etc for young people to frequently explore who they are and what role they might want to play in the world. They might even all have a coaching relationship with someone already in that world to help them explore further 😊

Q.2 What skill would you advise young people to focus on developing to enable them to have a fulfilling and enriching career?

In any career there’s a good chance that a large part of how fulfilling it is will depend on the quality of relationships with other people. High quality relationships start with good communication and being able to empathise. So I’d say start by working on your listening. More specifically, listening to understand what someone has actually said, rather than listening to reply by giving your opinion on what you thought they said. A good way to work on this is by paraphrasing back what you’ve heard. You’ll be surprised how often you realise that you weren’t listening at all and have completely misunderstood their meaning! The more aware you become of how well you listen, the more effort you’ll put into listening to understand and the better your relationships will become. It won’t guarantee a fulfilling career, but it’s a good foundation.




Hey, we’re Unleashed — our mission? To gear startups up for faster, better and more scaleable success through People + Culture