This Fall, I’ll be joining forces with Pam Slim (of Escape From Cubicle Nation fame) as we embark on a speaking tour at college universities across the nation. For the eleven of you who don’t know who Pam is, let me summarize who she is to me:
Pam is a catalyst of more meaningful existences. Before I even knew her on a personal level, her message resonated with me in a powerful way.
In addition to assisting corporate employees as they escape their unfulfilling job, Pam is an extraoardinarily gentle soul with the capacity to motivate objectively and with grace, regardless of the situation.
There are three main topics around which the message will revolve:
- personal branding
- having a “side hustle” (a part time pet project or business venture)
- the new world of work.
One of the first thing I’d like to clarify is the fact that this is not a “don’t get a job; stick it to the man!” rally. Jobs are important, good for the economy, and a good idea for many people.
This isn’t a message for “many people” though.
This message is for a generation of graduates who know that anything is possible and aren’t willing to build a career on someone else’s dream. A generation that has witnessed billion-dollar companies birthed in dorm rooms by peers their age and a relatively unknown senator from Illinois become the President of the United States of America.
A generation that refuses to believe that anything is impossible.
A generation witnessing an unprecedented economic meltdown that’s impacting the global economy. A generation whose parents and loved ones are losing jobs in the blink of an eye. Gone are the days where a college graduate picks a “nice, safe” job and works until retirement. It just doesn’t work like that anymore.
This message includes actionable steps for building a micro-business on the side while managing life’s other full-time responsibilities. It includes a re-evaluation of what risk means to someone without real assets and candid case studies about professionals who let 30 years go by before moving in the direction of their dreams.
This is the message I wished I had when I was preparing to graduate. I’ve been interested in entrepreneurship since before I knew how to spell the word or what it meant. When I graduated from college, I didn’t consider starting my own business to be a realistic option or one that I should seriously consider in the short term.
A little context
Until two months ago, I was employed by Accenture as an IT Consultant. I traveled the nation, met amazing people, handled all manner of responsibilities, and generally garnered the admiration of my friends who thought my job sounded amazing.
The trouble is that I was miserable.
Not just bored or unfulfilled.
On most client engagements, I’d fly out on Mondays and fly home on Thursdays. The distance between my work location and the airport often required me to leave work three hours before my flight (which was often delayed). It’s not hard to imagine how 40 hours per month of traveling is what I experienced for the last few months of my life in corporate america.
I reached my breaking point in February of this year, and threw in the towel shortly thereafter. Business was good and I was as ready as I’d ever be, so I leapt. And I haven’t looked back.
Why this is critical
A lot of the work I do is with upcoming graduates and budding professionals who are looking for footing as they begin their career. My last two years of college in particular were marked by intense leadership training (action, not theory), professional development, and mentoring. So I was more prepared than most.
But this isn’t the story most graduates have. I know from personal experience that there is very little being done to prepare graduates for the challenges of a fast-paced job. Part of this is because some instructors haven’t spent time in corporate america. Part of it is because things have changed.
But part of it is that the expectations and needs of this generation are vastly different.
Fortunately, I’m sensitive to those needs. And I feel a responsibility to address them.
I did the right things (or so I thought): got a well-paying, high-flying job. Bought a big house within six months of graduating. Created an investment portfolio. Allocated a portion of each paycheck for my 401(k). Learned all I could at work. Networked genuinely and meaningfully with many people.
Google my name. Seriously, do it. Note that I share the name of a professional football player. Who has the top result on Google? I do.
What is HR going to do when they get the name of an employment candidate? They’re going to google them. And you know what they’re going to find?
In the case of my latest client, it was a page full of most wanted and suicide report links. I’m not kidding. On a recent Skype video interview, my client’s interviewer immediately said “Oh good, you’re not the killer!”
The absolute best way to take control of what represents you when people search for your name online is to set up a personal website. Just yourname.com That’s what we did for my client and his site is now in the top results when you search for his name (clearly identifying him as a software engineer). He’ll soon be the top spot for searches against his name, and this will undoubtedly send a much better message for prospective employers.
You don’t have to get a job
Full-time employment simply isn’t for everyone. I’ve known since high school that my natural biorhythm makes me extremely productive in the wee hours of the morning and almost vegetatively unproductive between 11am and pm.
How incredibly inconvenient.
So as you can imagine, school was a challenge for me. Full-time employment was even worse. I got to the point on my last project where coffee wouldn’t even help. I would suck down a 5 Hour Energy just to make it through the day with enough vitality to answer emails.
So as you might imagine, my transition to self-employment works a bit better with my vampire-like biorhythm.
If you’ve got a side hustle (which in my opinion is much more important to have than a perfect GPA or internship that looks great on paper), you’re able to come to the table with a completely different perspective than someone who’s clueless about running a small business, making sacrifices, and exploring curiosity.
The problem is that most graduates have no idea that they’re able to (and should) negotiate their salary. When I encourage my clients to negotiate their first job offer, they’re shocked.
“Are you serious!? What do I say!? I don’t know if I can do that.”
Well, yes I’m serious. Having the confidence to stand up to a faceless beast and negotiate your salary is critical. It sends a message and shows that you have a sense of self-worth. Having a side hustle—something in which a person has invested many hours of sweat equity—instills this sense of self-worth in someone and gives them a context in which to frame their negotiations.
The New World of Work
Students are completely unsatisfied with the available options. And who could blame them? We’re a generation of creative and ambitious leaders whose strengths aren’t being utilized. Job ads often tout a desire for young, fresh ideas and motivated employees, but the reality (which most people quickly fund out but are powerless to do anything about) is that companies like the idea of fresh talent.
The truth is that stifling bureaucracy exists inside even mid-sized organizations. The truth is that meddling middle-management bleed the life out of creative thinkers every day.
If this is the message that needs to be shared at your college or university, I’d love to hear from you to see how we can connect.