Going into university I thought finding my ideal job would look like this:
But it actually looked like this:
Here are the four lessons I learned on my not-so-direct journey from naive freshman to digital consultant.
Lesson #1: Treat everyone with kindness.
It’s the right thing to do. And life has a funny way of paying it forward.
During my first year of college I wanted to get an engineering internship for the summer. The only problem? I didn’t have any engineering experience. Who would take a chance on me? As it turned out, a high school classmate’s father whom I met the year before.
The summer before college I ran into an old classmate and his dad while shopping. We were never friends, but we had plenty of classes together. He was incredibly bright, but not the most socially adept. We all know how that goes in high school. So I always tried to be friendly and welcoming. I knew many people weren’t.
When we bumped into each other, we chatted for a few minutes before parting ways. Then something funny happened. His dad reappeared. He told me about his engineering company in town. If I wanted an internship next summer, I should reach out.
When next summer rolled around I applied, interviewed, and was accepted.
Lesson #2: Learn to say no.
Sometimes you have to say no to a good opportunity in order to find a great opportunity.
During the first month of my second year, I got an offer to intern for GE. It paid well. It was a great company. But the job was in a small town. And I would be the only intern at the manufacturing plant. That wasn’t appealing to me, so I turned it down even though I had no other offers. I didn’t want to work somewhere just because it would look good on my resume. I’m sure my friends thought I was crazy.
The year came and went without any other offers. Then, the last week of the school year, I got a call from a small startup in San Francisco. I would be working in a fast paced, multi-disciplinary environment with a ton of autonomy. My job was to manage Facebook ad campaigns for large consumer brands.
I. Was. Ecstatic. An incredible city, a startup, and a cutting-edge industry. It was a dream internship for me.
photo by Tim Foster
Lesson #3: Make the most of your 3 summers.
The summers during college are the lowest-risk blocks of time in your life.
During my third year, I began to think long-term. My ultimate career ambition is to start my own company. To prepare for that I wanted to learn how different companies and industries operate. What job would allow me to do that the fastest? Consulting.
I only had one summer left before “the real world,” so I wanted to try something completely different from the startup life. What was the furthest possible thing from a startup? Probably the government. Since I was also interested in consulting, the government consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton in DC seemed like a good fit.
Lesson #4: Embrace every experience, good or bad.
Each one helps us better understand what we want to do.
Going into my final year, I knew two things. I wanted to work in consulting. I wanted a tech startup culture. I only realized those things because of my three very different internships. I didn’t enjoy everything I did, but I did learn from everything. So as I began my full-time job search I knew exactly what I was looking for. A few companies fit that profile, but the one that stood out was Accenture Digital.
My interviewer asked insightful questions about the future of tech. We discussed the merits of competing trends and Accenture’s ability to bring new innovations to the world’s largest companies. In addition, Accenture had just acquired the Design Thinking firm Fjord. It just so happened that my favorite class that year was on Design Thinking.
Accenture Digital was consulting. And even though it was a massive company, my future office had that startup vibe. So in the fall of senior year, I happily accepted their offer.
So what should you take away from this?
There is no “typical” path. There is no “right” path. And that is okay. Embrace the unknown and just do the best you can with the information you have at the time. Perhaps Steve Jobs said it best:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” — Stanford Commencement, 2005