I was talking with a soon-to-be college graduate this week, and we got on the topic of next steps after college. He saw that I took the startup path and joined as an early employee/cofounder right out of college, and had similar aspirations.
The truth is, I took that path using the wrong decision criteria. First and foremost, I didn’t get a second interview with the companies I had put the most effort towards working for.
Second of all, I was looking at most entry level jobs like they were below me. I wanted autonomy and responsibility.
And I got that when I joined Tixers! Tixers was acquired in 2015, and I had a fantastic experience. I learned a ton and I have no regrets – but I also got pretty lucky.
Knowing what I know now, I would have more seriously considered two alternative paths:
- Joining more of a rocketship (even if that meant less autonomy and responsibility)
- Creating an “apprenticeship” role with someone operating at a super high level
At the end of the day, no matter what you want to do, there are a couple huge levers that will make a difference for you:
- Education and understanding
- Access to people and resources
Regardless of what you want to make happen, you NEED to understand how the game is played, be able to afford to play that game, and have access to the players already in the game.
It’s certainly possible to gain all of that through hard work – but it’s really hard work. And if you face other societal, cultural, or socioeconomic barriers, it’s even harder.
And it will take a long time.
But if you’re willing to trade in some of your autonomy and responsibility – if you’re willing to put your ego aside – you may be able to learn from the best.
When you learn from the best, you really accelerate the learning curve.
And not only that, but the best probably already have access – both to resources and other players already in the game. If you do good work for and gain the respect of your mentor or boss, that can be a real shortcut.
It may take a few years, but it’s probably a more direct route to your goal (and probably pays more in the interim too)!
One caveat, of course, is that this strategy requires you to know where you want to play. Honestly, I probably didn’t truly figure that out until recently.
But there’s a shortcut. You’re already drawn to certain people, certain types of work.
It’s who you follow online.
It’s who you surround yourself with.
There’s a reason you’re drawn to them – so start there.
Autonomy and responsibility are great – they are two of my favorite things. But heavy is the head that wears the crown, and building your own path is a difficult, lonely journey.
Having allies and advocates goes a long way – and working for them can give you a leg up on your journey one day, and may make the whole trip a lot faster.
It’s another long-term investment in yourself.
PS: You may not be in a position where you’re looking for mentorship. In that case, it’s your opportunity to be a mentor, advocate, and ally for others who need it. Education and access are not evenly distributed – you can make a big difference.
PPS: Start making things. If you like writing, start writing. If you like video, or audio, start creating in those mediums. It helps you understand your own voice and your own opinions on things, and you never know who may see your work and change your life.