In Part One, I laid out how careers aren’t tightly scripted plays that we must plan in advance and follow to a T, they’re closer to random. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan.
In Part Two, I laid out how to begin evaluating what to do by looking inward.
I then discussed tying this inward view with an outward view in Part Three.
Today, I’m summarizing this all with my personal career vision and how I got here.
The best way to approach a career is to first look back on our life and identify what we’re interested in, what we’re good at, and what our experience has been so far. Then we should look at what we deeply believe to be true about the world and then figure out how we can act at the intersection of those two things. The specificity of what “act at the intersection” means depends on the time horizon we are thinking about. We should think about a funnel, where 10+ years is a vague description or list of things we’d like to be around, 5–10 years is a little more concrete, but not specific, and the next year or two is a pretty specific job or set of options.
This funnel should be constructed in a way that logically builds from the narrow part of the funnel to the wide part. As it gets wider optionality increases because the language, and thus range of options, becomes more vague. This allows us to plan but doesn’t pin us into a plan so we feel comfortable adapting to whatever are the best near-term opportunities. As time goes on and our experience increases, the funnel may shift directions. That’s okay. The point of the funnel is to help us make the best decisions right now without holding us to a very specific long term path.
So what does my career vision look like? Well in the long term, I want to be doing three things: learning about the world and how it works, instigating projects and companies and movements that make the world better, and teaching and coaching others. In the short term, I want to do one of two things:
- Enter the start-up world either as an analyst/associate at a venture capital firm or by doing finance at a start-up
- Enter the international development world doing development finance at an organization like the IFC, IDB, or DFC
In the medium term, my goal would be to achieve a mid to senior-level role in either of these areas that would afford me a level of autonomy to create opportunities and push my agenda.
As discussed in part three, these two paths are not as different as they may seem. But I think they are different enough to show that career isn’t deterministic, but can still have coherent narrative. We should write these narratives not because we are seeking to explain the logic of a career path but to frame our lives in a way we can communicate with others. We’ve been through so many experiences and so many small events in our lives affect the outcome that there’s no way we can understand it all, let alone explain it to someone else. Yet we must share our story with others. It’s a fundamental part of being human. And so, we write a narrative. We edit out all the pieces of our lives which are not relevant and tell a clean coherent story to help someone else begin to understand who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing. So here are my two narratives:
I’ve always wanted to be around entrepreneurship. It started young when I made my siblings play “store” with me or when my sister and I started a local neighborhood newspaper. When I got to college, I started a web company called Eagle-Trade, which digitized the physical notice boards around campus. I then spent eight years pursuing my other childhood passion, the airline industry. I learned a lot about the industry, analyzing unit economics, and strategy, but ultimately wanted to get back into the world of start-ups. So I left United Airlines and started my MBA at Georgetown McDonough.
At Georgetown, I am involved in these entrepreneurial activities [TBD]. After graduation, I plan to either work in a venture capital firm or in finance at a start-up.
This is a rough narrative, which definitely can be energized and tailored to a specific audience. But you can see a pretty clear narrative around entrepreneurship.
Development Finance Narrative
I was first exposed to the world outside of my home country during my undergrad. A team of two friends and I flew to Frankfurt as finalists in a case competition with Lufthansa. While the competition was fine, I ended up having so much fun exploring Frankfurt and spending time the other finalists who came to Frankfurt from all over the world. It really opened my eyes. I subsequently traveled to over 30 countries while working at United Airlines and did business across Asia.
Through all of this, I realized I wanted to have a more direct impact on economic development. Therefore, I decided to go back to school to get my MBA from Georgetown. I’m involved in these international development activities [TBD]. After graduation, I plan to work in a development bank such as the IFC, IDB, or DFC.
Again, there’s plenty of room for refinement here, but you can see a clear narrative around development finance.
All these tools and thought processes are in place to help us come up with options, refine options, and make the best decision for what comes next. I laid out my career vision based on this process, but as I said before, we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow and so this will always be changing and we can only make the best choice for today. We can’t get too locked into one narrative because, as I showed, we can rewrite the narrative just by highlighting different parts of our experience. So here we go into an uncertain future, prepared but always open to change.
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!