I’ve been invited to the Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY) awards dinner. I know. I’m not young. Or professional. Or, um, a year.
This rare occurrence – the last time I remember being invited to something, I’m pretty sure the dessert course was “wibbly wobbly jelly and ice cream” – got me thinking.
About dieting in time for the dinner-suited event mainly, but also about what it was like to start out in the professional world.
Generally, it was pretty hideous. Up until the point you arrived for your first day at work, your prior exposure to groups of sour-faced adults clad in suits would’ve been at funerals.
Then, you would be introduced to an endless conveyor belt of people whose names you honestly believed you would never remember.
Most of those people conveyed the air of impregnable confidence in every word they uttered.
Some demonstrated this confidence by using an authoritative ‘work voice’ so deafeningly assertive, you spent your first evening at home weeping, while stitching back together your own eardrum.
Like I said, it was hideous. There was a saving grace though, and the unexpected dinner invite reminded me of it. That saving grace was the support of Birmingham’s young business community and it’s this community that represents one of the city’s most attractive USPs.
This city is really conducive for doing business in, especially if you’re in the fledgling stage of your career. Birmingham’s main business area, centred in the Colmore Business District, has always been relatively compact but provides enough variety in terms of engaging meeting points for young professionals.
The city’s propensity for self-deprecation helps too, despite being regularly cited as one of the city’s main personality failings; unpretentiousness permeates through each formal event and informal gathering, meaning you rarely notice contemporaries giving it the big ‘I am’.
In Brum, young professional networking events are relaxed, people are good-natured and corporate aggression is frowned upon.
You don’t tend to get the ‘big fish in a small pool’ mentality here. Admittedly, that’s because young professionals here all universally feel like pondlife compared to their senior counterparts, but at least there’s a sense of equality.
Compare this to London, and its sprawling, impersonal world of corporate business, where career-clambering tyros are summarily chewed up and spat out more frequently than the gobbets of Sir Alex Ferguson’s chewing gum. They don’t network in London. They backstab (politely). They laugh (insincerely).
They drink (to forget the pervading feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and, on occasion, probably impotence).
I’ve always been complimentary about the networking scene in Brum, despite being current holder of the “World’s Worst Networker” title (if only networking could be judged by how many tempura prawns can be stuffed into one’s man mouth whilst trying to avoid engaging in proper conversation).
Ridiculously though, I remain surprised when I hear of young people being equally as laudatory.