As summer winds down and many head back to school or into the workforce, some unsolicited career advice which I’m fairly certain will resonate and 100% certain you will ignore. 1. Get certified. In the depths of the Great Recession, college grads enjoyed half the unemployment rate of high school graduates. Over the course of your lifetime, college grads are going to make on average two times what someone without a degree earns. If you can’t find your way to college then seek other certification whether it’s a class 3 driver’s license, scuba certification or a degree in cosmetology. 2. Be remarkable. Develop not just one area of expertise, but two skills that don’t always naturally go together. Be the CFO who also understands what music should be played at your events, be the creative director who knows how to use Excel. Just as Lindt chocolate brings together dark chocolate and chili peppers, what two attributes are you going to bring
together that differentiate you? 3. Find the variance. Look at the six or eight things that are key to your firm’s success and identify one or two of those where you can differentiate yourself by becoming an expert. If everyone’s pretty good at PowerPoint that’s not where the variance is but if some people can’t string together a sentence and writing is important to your job, try to become a great writer. 4. Get to a city. Your zip code is a strong signal of future wealth. Two-thirds of economic growth will take place in cities. Like tennis, when you rally with someone better than you, you improve, being in a city forces you to rally with the best. 5. Boring is sexy. Want to produce movies, work for Vogue or open restaurants? Then you better receive a great deal of psychic income, because your return on investment will be lousy. Software as a service for healthcare maintenance workers? Sounds awful. But that’s where the money is. 6. Be willing to delay gratification. Einstein said the power of compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. This is true not only for money but your own efforts. Every day, invest in something where the payoff won’t come for several years, but aggregates. 7. Demonstrate strength and grit. What do Fortune 500 CEOs have in common? Not that they went to Ivy League schools, nor that they were born into wealthy families, but they exercise every day. It’s about being a stronger version of you. If shit gets real you know you could kill and eat everyone in the room, which will make you feel more confident. By the way, I’m not suggesting you do this. 8. Don’t follow your passion. When a luncheon speaker tells people to follow their passion, it means they’re already rich. The best tax lawyers aren’t passionate about tax law, they’re passionate about being great at something and the accoutrements of being the best in your field. 9. Ignore the myth of balance. We’ve all heard about somebody who’s great at their work, volunteers at the ASPCA and runs a food blog. Assume you are not this person. I have a lot of balance in my life now. Why? Because I worked my ass off in my 20s and my 30s. It cost me my first marriage, it cost me my hair and it was worth it. Finally, fight unfair. What are you willing to do that the majority of people around you aren’t? I’m a professor with a decent amount of credibility, but there are dozens that have more credibility. I’m a good entrepreneur, but there are more successful entrepreneurs. However, there are few professor-entrepreneurs who are willing to put on wigs. Why do this? I’m fighting unfair. What are you willing to do that your colleagues won’t? Fight unfair. We’ll see you next week.