“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman’s quote is as applicable to careers as to life. That is why we must continually ask ourselves tough questions every 3 months. Are we solving a problem or inventing a problem to solve? Are we creating an impact or pretending to do so? Impact can be social, financial, business, technical or creative but it must be measurable. If we can’t quantify our impact, we must be able to visualize a stakeholder or a shareholder whose life we made marginally better through our work. Not being able to quantify impact or visualize a shareholder/stakeholder is a red flag. If you are in your current pursuit to build your resume, good luck! You will need a lot of it as “luck” is your strategy.
Whenever someone calls me/meets me for career/grad school advice, I ask them the following questions:
1. What do you do?
2. Why do you do what you do? (Subtext: What motivates you?)
3. Walk me through a day at work
4. What is the impact you have had?
5. What problem(s) are you most inspired to solve?
6. Will your next professional step take you closer to the problem you wish to solve?
** Problem can be social, technical, business, creative or financial. There is no hierarchy of problems
Resume-driven people often give answers that sound like concatenation of buzzwords. Impact-driven people give clear answers because their motivation is intrinsic. They are driven by solving problems creatively as opposed to preparing to solve problems one fine day when all chips fall in place. Truth be told, all chips never fall in place.
We need to start small, dream big and most importantly live in the present.
3 points to keep in mind.
1. Reflect on your internal motivation. There is NO substitute for that and you can’t FAKE it.
2. Solid impact creates a pretty CV. It DOES NOT work the other way around.
3. You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.