If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, you may want to start here.
I believe there are two ways people can get into trouble when evaluating career options, either too thinking too narrowly or too broadly. The narrow view often sounds like this: “I’ll continue doing what I’m doing now because I can’t do anything else” or this “I’ll do what someone else tells me because I feel like I don’t have a clue and they must know more than me.” On the other hand, the broad view often sounds like this: “I could do a lot of things, but I don’t know which one, so I’m just going to do something that maximizes my options until I figure something out” or this “Remember when I told you last week that I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, well scratch that, I now have a new and better idea.” To be clear, none of these are inherently bad, but I believe there is a middle ground approach. To start, we should think about the things we are interested in, the things we’re good at, and our experiences so far. Here’s how I think about it for myself.
What I’m interested in
I’m interested in entrepreneurship, new ideas, business, economics, global affairs, travel, technology, and of course, airlines. I know this for a few reasons.
First, on entrepreneurship and new ideas. As I look back on my life so far there have been few things which lit a fire in me, but they all revolved around new ideas. My entrepreneurial experience at Embry-Riddle is one example of this. I walked into the entrepreneurship club’s first meeting freshman year and there was no one there except for another freshman (Mike Bardi). I said this is terrible and there needs to be a thriving entrepreneurship club on campus. not only did we rebuild the club to over 50 members, but we started a business that gave entrepreneurial experience to dozens of our fellow students.
Second, one specific trip sparked my interest in travel and global affairs. While a sophomore at Embry-Riddle, two friends and I were finalists in a case competition with Lufthansa. We flew to Frankfurt to present but hanging out with the other teams who traveled there from all over the world was my highlight. Since then, I’ve traveled to over 30 countries, done work all over Asia, have committed to learning Spanish, and get so much joy out of other cultures and places.
Finally, on business and economics. When the theory of comparative advantage and trade clicked for me, it opened the world of economics. This shows up from me gravitating to the Finance & Economics section of The Economist, voluntarily reading textbook-like books such as “A History of Economic Theory,” or my career at United gravitating to work on the unit economics of the airlines.
What I’m good at
Next are the things I’ve found myself to be good at. Good is of course relative, but these areas I seem to have found some success in: starting, persuasion, and analysis.
First, starting. When I see a problem or an opportunity I come up with ideas and I am biased to act. More than the average person, I don’t leave things as “that’s a good idea” but I say okay what can we do next? This is by no means with everything but is most common when it comes to new ideas that get me excited. It usually starts with getting other people involved which brings me to number two.
Persuasion. I’ve never thought about myself as great at sales, but when I look back at my time so far I have been incredibly persuasive in getting other people on board with an idea or project if I believed in it. I have been persuasive, whether recruiting people to join me in doing parkour, building a team for Eagle-Trade or TEDxGrantPark, pushing projects across the finish line at United, or recruiting people to come work for United.
Finally, analysis. While all of these areas I can find myself in a state of flow, where I’ve most commonly found myself completely lost in time because I’m trying to solve a problem is head deep trying to answer an analytical question. I’m no expert mathematician, but I love exploring and modeling the ways the world works and I consistently wrestle with problems until I’ve found a solution. And when I find a solution or a unique insight, I return to #1 and #2 to do something about it.
My experience so far
The last of the three internal perspectives is “experience so far.” My experience so far is in airline economics and launching things. While I did several jobs at United in Pricing, Revenue Management, Revenue Forecasting, and Route Network Planning, they all revolved around understanding and optimizing the unit economics of the airline. In addition, I’ve launched things or helped others launch things: Eagle-Trade and TEDxGrantPark were the biggest ones, but there were many smaller ones from creating groups to do parkour, to helping a friend kick off her work fighting human trafficking in Romania, to helping numerous friends and family on their start-ups.
So in summary: I constantly read and analyze to discover new ideas and when something unique strikes me, then I recruit others to act to bring that idea to life. I am a multi-disciplinarian with lots of interests and lots of ideas. I’m good at not just seeing a problem but seeing a solution and persuading others to come along for the ride. I want to spend my life identifying problems in the world, figuring out ways to solve them, and either putting together a team to act or amplifying those who have already started.
This was the internal perspective. Next up I’ll take a look at the external perspective and then wrap up with how this all looks for my career vision.
Update: Part Three is here.
As always, my goal here is to flesh out my own ideas, but my opinions may change so please comment to add on or tell me where you disagree. If you find anything factually incorrect, I’ll buy you a drink!