Graduation season is here. To quote legendary Sob Rocker John Mayer, “Welcome to the real word she said to me. Condescendingly.”
According to the Education Data Initiative, 19.5% of college graduates will obtain a bachelor’s degree in business, which means a lot of business degrees. On Twitter, I’ve joked that there’s no better way to signal you have no idea what you want to do with your life than by obtaining a business degree. It’s funny, sure. But to quote legendary flutist Lizzo, “Truth hurts.”
“Business” is a rather wide net to cast over what you’ll be doing with your life. Here are some common career paths a degree in business might take you down:
Supply chain management
This list only scratches the surface. Accounting, for example, splinters into specialties such as tax, audit, etc. Some career paths simply file you into entry-level training programs that are designed to give you a few years of experience before not-so-subtly pushing you back into graduate school. They hope you’ll return to your job ready to climb the corporate ladder and stay there for the long haul. But once you start climbing, it’s not the easiest place to jump from.
I love speaking to young professionals who want to learn more about what I do. It’s one of the highlights of my job, and I do my best to always make the time. But within a few minutes, I can always tell who has put honest thought into their future career path and who hasn’t. Many recent graduates lead with what their parents or career counselors favor for them: a stable, safe, generalized idea of a job that will lead to a lucrative life. Not anything more than that.
This thinking is backwards. Right after college is the time to take the most risk. Figure out what actually excites you and experiment with that. What’s the worst that can happen in your first job–you gain the clarity that it’s not what you’re good at, or not what you thought it would be? You’ll still gain that lived experience and have an amazing story to tell. That is what a career is: a story and a journey no one has agency over but you.
Graduation is the best time to realize your happiness is directly linked to your freedom to choose what to do with your life and how to spend your time. If you want to gauge how you’re doing, start by asking yourself some basic questions:
Are you happy?
Can you support yourself physically and financially?
Are you growing personally and professionally?
If your answers are all a resounding yes, keep going.
Ignore any judgment passed on by friends who are preoccupied with clout chasing. I know so many people from college and business school who chose a job simply for its name brand recognition, which may look great on a resume, but my point is that its value is much more subjective than you realize early on.
I will never bash people who chose careers that aren’t rooted in something they love to do. I work with many people who’ve built wonderful lives for themselves by sticking with whatever paths their degrees provided after graduation. There’s tremendous value in the stability that comes with sticking with it. But I also receive many phone calls from people a decade into their careers, wondering how they got so far into something that doesn’t satisfy them.
If you are embarking on a new professional journey, all I’d say is to challenge conventional wisdom. Don’t make default decisions. Your years as a young professional are the time to embrace risk, explore passions, and discover what truly excites you, because your career is yours. It’s unwritten until you write it. Like that song. I think I’ll quote another song: “The rest is still unwritten.”
Mind Your Money Podcast: Episode 3 - Morgan Housel and I are back with a brand new episode where we discuss why the best way to get rich is to go slow, the cost of success, and money’s grip on mental health. Then we got a chance to speak with WIRED Magazine’s co-founder, Kevin Kelly, to discuss his new book, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier. You won’t want to miss it.
100 Foot Wave: Season 2 - With the exception of Florida Gator football, Heather and I aren’t the most enthusiastic sports fans. But for some reason, we love watching sports documentaries. It’s one of our weird quirks. A current favorite is “100 Foot Wave,” which follows surfing legend Garrett McNamara to Nazaré, Portugal, where he and other big wave surfers try to ride the biggest wave on the planet. Season 1 was absolutely gnarly, so we’re beyond stoked to learn that Season 2 just dropped earlier this month. Check it out for yourself on Max, the steaming service formally known as HBO Max.
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I talked with a financial planner last week who you invited to lunch one day to talk about her career. She largely contributed that conversation to her shifting her career path and now absolutely killing it within financial planning. You certainly walk the talk and financial planning is better because of you.
A good article but just for the sake of argument I will say the biggest determiner of your future happiness is not your career but rather the person you marry.