A friend's son asked me for advice about what to do after graduation. Here is what I said:
I envy your options!
Once I told a friend’s son he should get his merchant
seaman’s license and travel the world. He went on to graduate from Yale and is
now a nuclear sub engineer in the Navy. Not exactly the swashbuckling option I
dreamed about – but for the few days a year they are in port he gets to see the
There are many people who could give you much better advice
than me. You probably have access to experts at your school. Talk to your
friend and family – what a great conversation starter! Your choices may be
constrained by student loans or a girlfriend
The concept of
constraints is really important – your life is as open now as the sea –
everything that happens after this freezes a part of it.
Life is simultaneously long and short. Poets and playwrights
have pondered the best use of it over and over. I like the advice of Seneca,
Shakespeare and Emerson.
As for careers: they are temporal. I’d keep my options as
open as possible. I understand people your age will have over a dozen . My
advice is to make the next career more interesting than the last.
You’ve got to be comfortable with the mission, meaning,
rewards, work:life balance and risk. I just made that up – please don’t
infer any metaphysical importance to that list 😊
That said, I believe being a lawyer is no longer the right
career choice for most people. It’s expensive to get a law degree and many of
my friends think the decline in income prospects combined with the debt
service/opportunity cost has made it a bad investment.
You’ve got to be excited about whatever you want
to do – even if it’s for a little while (1-2 yrs.) The major benefit may be
experience. There may never be another time in your life when your tolerance
for risk is as high as it is now. (No kids, mortgage, roots, etc.) So go for
Ask yourself: do I want to find adventure or vocation? What
have you already done that interested you? What networks have you plugged into
with the most interesting people? I’d look at the quality of the people you work with as a
form of compensation. They will also help you create your professional network.
Do you have a calling? Some are motivated by their religion,
an internal quest or desire to help solve a problem in a charitable way. Some
only keep score by the money they make. At your 10th or 40th
reunion what do you want to say to the friends that remain when they ask: What
do you do?
At my age I think about epitaphs 😊
What 3-5 words will define you?
With your education and family you truly have unlimited
potential. DO NOT LET YOUR DEGREES LIMIT YOU. Don’t be put in a box. Most of
the smart people I know had no clue about a plan for life until it
happened to them.
I’ve gone on too long and don’t think I’ve answered any of
your questions. Here are a few more places to look: