One of his series of posts was especially priceless, and this was his guide dedicated to helping recent college graduates map out their careers. I just wanted to share the plethora of quotes that were the highlights for me:
The first rule of career planning: Do not plan your career.
The second rule of career planning: Instead of planning your career, focus on developing skills and pursuing opportunities.
I believe you should look at your career as a portfolio of jobs/roles/opportunities. Each job that you take, each role that you choose to fill, each opportunity you pursue, will have a certain potential return – the benefits you can get from taking it, whether those benefits come in the form of income, skill development, experience, geographic location, or something else. Each job will also have a certain risk profile — the things that could go wrong, from getting fired for not being able to handle the job’s demands, to having to move somewhere you don’t want to, to the company going bankrupt, to the opportunity cost of not pursuing some other attractive opportunity.
Once you start thinking this way, you can think strategically about your career over its likely 50+ year timespan.
The issue is that without taking risk, you can’t exploit any opportunities.
If you intend to have an impact on the world, the faster you start developing concrete skills that will be useful in the real world, the better – and your undergrad degree is a great place to start. Once you get into the real world and you’re primed for success, then you can pursue your passion.
Don’t worry about being a small fish in a big pond – you want to always be in the best pond possible, because that’s how you will get exposed to the best people and the best opportunities in your field.
Seek to be a double/triple/quadruple threat.
Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
If you have lived an orchestated existence, gone to great schools, participated in lots of extracurricular activities, had parents who really concentrated hard on developing you broadly and exposing you to lots of cultural experiences, and graduated from an elite university in the first 22 or more years of your life, you are in danger of entering the real world, being smacked hard across the face by reality, and never recovering.
What do I mean? It’s possible you got all the way through those first 22 or more years and are now entering the workforce without ever really challenging yourself. This sounds silly because you’ve been working hard your whole life, but working hard is not what I’m talking about. You’ve been continuously surrounded by a state of the art parental and educational support structure — a safety net — and you have yet to make tough decisions, by yourself, in the absence of good information, and to live with the consequences of screwing up.
In my opinion, it’s now critically important to get into the real world and really challenge yourself — expose yourself to risk — put yourself in situations where you will succeed or fail by your own decisions and actions, and where that success or failure will be highly visible.
When picking an industry to enter, my favorite rule of thumb is this:
Pick an industry where the founders of the industry — the founders of the important companies in the industry — are still alive and actively involved.
If you are young and want to have an impact, you want to be in an industry where there is a lot of growth and change and flux and opportunity.
Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being a big fish in a small pond sucks — you will hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly, and nobody will care. Optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find. That is where the great opportunities can be found.
Apply this rule when selecting which company to go to. Go to the company where all the action is happening.
Also apply this rule when selecting which city to live in. Go to the city where all the action is happening.
In a rapidly changing field like technology, the best place to get experience when you’re starting out is in younger, high-growth companies.