Career Advice for a Harvard B-School Grad

A Harvard B-School alum cold-called me and asked to meet.

He graduated from b-school a few years ago, took his start-up through the MassChallenge program, and now, has closed his company due to lack of funding.

We met. He asked me for career advice.

My advice was along the lines of what I’ve posted previously (see “How to Get a VC Job”).  But, I did have some other observations:

  • He’s very lucky to have two great degrees from good schools
  • He is still at an age where he can fail and recover
  • The most important thing he can do is develop his instincts, ignore what others are doing, and follow his convictions

Regarding the last point, I’m amazed that nearly all HBS graduates switch jobs within a few years of graduation. I’m not exempt–I did the same.

Many graduates go into consulting or banking. It is the easy path to take, and those jobs pay well. It feels like a safe decision. So many of your classmates are going to the same firms. The herd is moving in the same direction.

Some love the jobs. Most don’t. So, they quit. There’s a reason why those firms have to spend a lot of time and money recruiting new folks: the turnover is very high. The thirst for larger incoming herds is incorrigible.

It takes a while to develop your own “gut” feeling and to ignore the need for validation from others. But, I think, once you do, you are in charge of your own career. If you don’t, you’ll just follow the cheer of the crowd that echoes faintly and can lead you down a foggy path.

I know some people in their 40s, who have a lot of money. And, they hate their jobs. I hope this person with whom I met avoids that path.

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