Figuring Out a Career

I had a call today with a college freshman, a friend’s son, who wanted to ask about what a VC does and how to figure out a career. I pointed him to some of my blog posts on career management and also told him what I wish I knew when I was his age.

For me, I found college to be very fun, intellectually captivating, and four years that did not prepare me much for making career decisions. Yes, I learned many things, but I found it short on preparing me for post-college life.

I told this student a few things:

  • College is a time when you’re the customer. You’re paying them. Work is different. They are paying you. That one distinction makes a world of difference. Know that work will be work. If it were all fun and games, it would be vacation and you’d be paying them.
  • Major in something both edifying and practical. I think it is a reality that some majors lead to non-academic careers, and for others, less so. But, it also is important to find your passion. So, balance both.
  • Your passion will change over time–and, that is more than OK. I think of careers in seven to 10 year phases.  Your desires in each decade will shift, depending on what you’ve accomplished so far, whether you have children and what ages they are, and what your life partner wants. All that means that you will change over time. So, figuring out a career is a life-long process.
  • I think the key with jobs is to identify the mundane day-to-day tasks for which you have ability. Do you enjoy working on numbers, meeting people, writing long papers, etc.? Everyone likes being on stage, but most jobs are filled with pretty basic tasks. Then, figure what tasks you enjoy doing. Finally, find the intersection of the two. The jobs that are most meaningful, IMO, are the ones for which you have natural aptitude and clear passion.

It was a fun talk.


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