Hasnain Zaidi graduated from Duke University in 2008, and soon landing a job at Bain & Company, the prestigious management consulting firm. But after a few years, he got itchy. He wanted something more. Something creative. So he left his job to go work at Chipotle.
On the burrito chain's assembly line, Zaidi told Huffington Post Live that he learned "some very real world skills that we didn't pick up in our high pressure jobs," like "dealing with people that make minimum wage or close to minimum wage, chopping chicken, grilling, dealing with customers."
These were important skills for Zaidi, who along with two old classmates Vijay Brihmadesam and Jason Pate, last year opened Tava Indian Kitchen in Palo Alto, his own Chipotle-style restaurant with an Indian twist (would you like any tikka on your burroti?). Six months later they opened up a second outlet in San Francisco.
"The dream was to go create something very real," says Zaidi. "We wanted to have a sense of ownership and creativity and control that we didn't get in our lives in finance."
Zaidi is one of a growing army of young people who are defecting from high-paying jobs in finance and consulting to pursue more passionate work. There's Mark Ramadan and Scott Norton, who were business and finance consultants, before they launched the gourmet ketchup company Sir Kensington's. And Benjamin Benton, who left his hedge fund job to start a fashion line. There's even a website, Escape the City, that helps corporate and finance types find more fulfilling employ, founded by Rob Symington and Dom Jackman, former Ernst & Young consultants.
Perhaps it's the collapse of the old corporate safety net, growing up with the Internet's entrepreneurial spirit, or just the greater craving for work-life harmony. But when the employer branding firm asked young professionals (average age 27) where they'd most like to work in 2011, no bank or hedge fund or consulting firm cracked the top 10. Instead, it was places like Google,Apple, and Teach for America.
"I think they realized that our generation is a different beast," Zaidi said about his parents' response to his career change. "It's not get in at the entry level and work 20 years to make your way to the top. It's much more about blazing your own path and finding what's going to be fulfilling to you."