Fri 20 Apr 2012
Paul Seymour is jobbing. A lot. Not sure what he wants to do, and not content just taking “any job” he’s on the search for the occupation that inspires the most passion in him.
Inspired by a similar undertaking in Canada, Paul has embarked upon a project called “One Week Job”. His mission is fifty-two jobs in fifty-two weeks (with all his wages being donated to charity). In Week ten, we were treated to his infectious presence at Dumbo Feather. As part of his work with us, we sent him out to talk jobs with the CEO and co-founder of Seek, Andrew Bassat.
Here’s his interview.
Back in 1997, there were three minds at play in Melbourne, working on a business plan which would become Seek, the number one way that Australians would seek out new jobs and opportunities.
Andrew Bassat wasn’t an internet user. He had no real background in employment, or even in business. But this idea felt right from the start; he and his brother Paul couldn’t let it go.
Much like myself, Andrew wasn’t sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. But around the time he hit his thirties, it clicked. He wasn’t drifting anymore. It’s been fifteen years since Seek’s inception, but you won’t find Andrew at work on a Monday trawling through his own creation in search of a new job. He has found passion in the job that he does.
In the high school yearbook, were you always going to be the one who was pegged to be successful or do great things after finishing school?
No, I mucked around at school. I did okay, but nothing outstanding. If we even had a yearbook, I doubt I would have been written up around the top end or bottom end. More like, ‘Ill-disciplined and poorly-behaved, but not completely stupid.’ Somewhere in the middle.
After finishing school you then went on to become a lawyer. What sent you in that direction?
Oh, stupidity. I don’t know why I did law really; I did science first and I had much more of a science background. To be honest, when I finished science I wasn’t really ready to work. I was way too immature, so a further few years of further study made sense to me at the time.
University was fun, and I’d only had three years of it. I chose Law as it seemed as good as anything. Once I finished my law degree, I realised then that it probably wasn’t for me as I hadn’t enjoyed the the study side of law so much. But I ended up doing working in law for two-and-a-half years, and that was plenty. Soon after, I began to do my MBA and went on to be a strategy consultant. I enjoyed that work more but that wasn’t for me for long term either.
So does this job suit you now?
Oh yeah look, it’s alright, it’s been pretty good… [Laughs] I think part of me realised that I would end up working for myself one way or another—it’s just more my personality. I wasn’t a really good employee; I didn’t like being told what to do, which I guess was a bit of a fatal flaw. I had thought to myself that if a good idea came along, I’d love to have a crack at doing my own thing, so when my brother Paul had the idea for Seek back in 1997, we both thought that it was worth having a crack at.
The Seek office has an amazing culture and I imagine is a fun environment to work in. How do you protect that culture?
Right at the start, we said that people were important—we value people and we want good people. When you look at the competitive advantages people like Fairfax and News had over us, they had all the money, they had all the advertisers and they had all the jobseekers. So initially we thought, how are we going to beat these guys? We realized that the only way we were going to beat them was if we had better people who were more passionate and more committed than our competitors. We genuinely believe in our people and want them to enjoy their time at work and reward them for success. From the fact that people here enjoy themselves and we have had a measure of helps you to attract more good people. It becomes self-reinforcing, provided we keep things in place that don’t change that culture.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t know what they want to do in life?
It’s a hard question. To be frank, I drifted until I was in my thirties, both in terms of the jobs I did and the study. I’d try semi-hard and semi-enjoy what I was doing, but I never really loved anything.
I think it comes down to the way you perform; how you feel about turning up to work everyday is really driven by loving what you do. If you are going through the motions and turning up and looking at your watch towards the end of the day, you are probably in either the wrong organisation or the wrong job. Spending 8 or 9 hours miserable or just borderline miserable can flow over into the rest of your life. If you’re finding yourself not loving it, but just tolerating it, you probably need to look elsewhere. It’s all about being passionate and doing what you enjoy.
Seek are now Paul’s official sponsor of the One Week Job project. You can find out more about the project at Paul’s website (and also hire him to work in your business for a week!).