Embrace The Unplanned: What To Do When Your Dream Career Is No Longer An Option
Hi there. I want to talk about your career.
Well, actually, I want to talk about the beginnings of your career and a lesson learned while building my own. The lesson stems from my “reluctant entrepreneur” background and should prove pretty useful towards your success as you begin your career.
I graduated with a bachelor's in finance back in 2008. I was excited about Wall Street, ready to cut my teeth, and wanted to make everything I could from any opportunity that would take me to New York, Chicago or San Francisco.
It didn't matter if it was with Patrick Bateman, Bud Fox or Seth Davis, I was psyched up and ready to start my career.
My school was nothing top tier, but my now alma mater provided me with enough talking points, resume info and interview skills to at least pretend that I knew what I was talking about. I was driven, I was motivated and I wanted it. I just needed an opportunity.
But this was right around the time the “Greatest Recession in the History of the World” decided to hit and everything started to change real fast. My commencement speaker was fired from Bear Sterns, classmates were getting their offers revoked and the economy was collapsing.
Unemployment was 20 percent, banks were disappearing, and even the kids from Harvard were having trouble on the job front. Opportunities that were easy and openly available all of a sudden closed up real quick.
I must have applied to 50 jobs before I realized my dreamy Goldman Sachs career was gone. Possibly forever.
I had to consider other options. And they weren't all that great — selling CUTCO knives, driving delivery trucks or creating cappuccinos
So now I'm up sh*t's creek without a paddle in the biggest tsunami of a recession and all those awesome jobs that I specifically trained for were all gone.
What did I do?
Well, after going through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, I figured there were three ways to handle this: 1) Head back to school and ride this whole thing out under the guise of furthering my education 2) Get a job somewhere knowing it's just temporary and hope for the best or 3)…
Grab the bull by the horns, create my own opportunities, and man handle this hell of recession so hard the world thinks I'm the one that bailed out Fannie Mae
Hint: I chose the number that rhymes with three.
See, that's what I mean by “reluctant entrepreneur” — it wasn't intentional. It was a product of circumstance. A product of something pretty far out of my control. But an entrepreneur nonetheless.
It's been a crazy journey since then. Coding and Crashing. Hacking and Rebuilding. But somehow, we worked hard, put in the huge number of hours, and built our own opportunity. It even led to awesome interactions with Google's StartUp Weekend, a tech company out of Israel, and a year and a half with Intel.
And whether it was building my own business or Israeli entrepreneurs, StartUp Weekend participants or Ph.D's in Theoretical Physics they all had one thing in common and they all chalk up their long-term success to it.
It wasn't smarts, it wasn't luck, it wasn't even timing. It was…
Wake up early, work hard, don't turn off, don't check out and devote yourself 100 percent to your goal. Don't get stuck in the “clock in and clock out” mentality.
Entrepreneurs, business builders and even Computer Science Ph.D's don't always get it right, but it's the sheer number of hours and hard work that tilt the odds of success in their favor for the opportunities that they create. And as you start building out your career, you should do the same.
And, by the way, this is almost completely against the idea of the work/life balance see-saw we all read about. Mckinsey talks about it, Goldman Sachs talks about it, even Google talks about it. But you shouldn't see work and life as a balancing act.
It's not a tradeoff, it's an empowerment. It's not a see-saw, it's a rocket ship. The more you work, the bigger your rocket engines, and the more rewarding your opportunities. You won't have a successful career and family by weighing them against each other. Both grow by lots of hard work, drive and determination.
Mark Cuban would stay up until 2 am reading software manuals. Jeff Bezos put in 12-hour days and raced his employees to answer more emails. Marissa Mayer would put in 100+ hours and one all-nighter a week.
The Gary Vaynerchuks of the world, the Oprahs, and the Justin Timberlakes all talk about how it's the hard work, the long hours, and the sheer amount of work that built great opportunities and moved them towards their goals. It's not intelligence, it's not timing, it's not random chance — it's lots of hard work.
The bigger companies will do everything they can to make you warm and cozy. They will talk about benefits instead of projects.
They will talk about salaries instead of opportunities. They'll talk about a comfortable work environment instead of one that forces you to grow. Come in at 10 am? Fine. Management by Objectives? Sure. Work from home. Of course.
But don't fall for it. Don't get comfortable. Do more. Build your own opportunities.
Go above and go beyond. Create more and better opportunities for yourself. Read those software manuals 'til 2 in the morning. Choose a project outside of your reach and pull that all-nighter.
You'll gain some amazing experience, build relationships that last and develop a reputation that carries you upward and onward. Over time, you will fail and not everything will line up, but you'll begin to tilt the odds in your favor and create your own opportunities that pay off for a lifetime.
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