Your first job does NOT determine your path for the rest of your life.
Many people accept this as a fact of life. But it’s not. It’s a simple human error — one that we’re all susceptible to. Correlation vs. causation.
When we’re surrounded by successful individuals who got their start at a prestigious investment bank or consulting firm — our natural tendency is to assign a false causation. We believe that because people who went to McKinsey, or Goldman Sachs, or Google end up very successful in other arenas, that must be a part of the formula for success.
That’s just wrong.
For every successful individual who got their start at Goldman, there’s another who got their start as a teacher. For every successful McKinseyite, there’s another who started in marketing, and for every successful Googler, there’s another who started in accounting.
People love to say that going to a prestigious firm out of college is worth the time because of the connections you’re going to make, or the skills you’re going to gain. But that glittering generality fails to address the real point:
It’s not about where you start — it’s about who you become.
The ultimate proof of this lies in programs like Teach for America, Venture for America, or Fulbrights. All of these fellowships (and more) place recent college graduates in professions where people gain none of the exposure to “business skills” or “networks” of consultants and investment bankers. Yet just as many (if not more) graduates of these programs end up starting successful companies, leading innovative teams, and changing the world around us.
Because successful people never worry what other people are doing.
If you’re busy chasing a job because it will “look good on your resume” or “teach you skills” that you can’t define — you’re wasting your time. Successful people are never willing to squander time. But ambitious individuals do happen to be drawn to similar opportunities. Hence, correlation vs. causation.
Successful people are always chasing what they want. And it’s important to realize that what you want is almost never a consistent thing. It’s subject to frequent change. One day you may want to save the environment through helping businesses cut-down carbon emissions, and the next you may realize that you’re more interested in helping educate younger students on environmentally friendly practices.
So how are you supposed to figure out what you want?
It starts with knowing who you are. And being able to check in with yourself regularly to see how you’ve changed. Read more about finding out who you are here.