September 10th, 2004 · No Comments · Education


One of the most common questions students ask is “what should I do?” They usually don’t realize that’s a philosophical and spiritual question more than vocational. In my mind the real question is “how should you live?”

Nonetheless, I have a usual answer that is predictably easier to say than to do. Large problems can be scary because of all the unknown variables. Sometimes not even knowing the variables can be scary. Kind of like not knowing how much money is in the bank but still writing checks hoping it all works out.

What Should I Do?

1) Make a list of all of your possible interests. Include everything, even the exotic. Include the things that other people think you have talent in. This list won’t make your anxiety go away, but I find it helps to have a place where it’s all together.

2) Look over the list and re-order it from the most interesting to the least.

3) Select the top group and spend as much time as it takes to get as much experience or knowledge about those fields as possible. This might take a week or maybe a decade. In a nutshell, this is what universities help with (remember all those GE courses). Interning or working in a entry-level position at a place on your list accomplishes this delightfully. Sometimes, it’s more efficient to take someone to lunch who is in this field. I was interested in being an Architect (yes–Architect is capitalized) when I was in high school. I had, and still have, the utmost respect for them, however, after speaking to two family friend who are Architects, I realized it wasn’t the best match for me.

If you don’t have any friends of the family who are, say, roller-coaster designers, that you can take out to lunch, and if you have no idea which school to go to for that, then call Disneyworld. I’m not joking. Ask to speak to a designer in their design department or in the company that does it. You’ll be placed on hold and will have to speak to 10 people before you get even close to an answer. However, if you were in a niche profession and someone called you up and said that they loved what you did and wanted to be just like you, wouldn’t you talk to them for a couple of minutes and help them out? Note: just as you can expect them to be enthusiastic, also expect them to be busy: ask to make an appointment and be courteous of their time.

A Secret Trick

If that roller-coaster designer agrees to meet with you, and you meet, and he gives you the tour, and you’re prepared with intelligent questions, and you like the place (you might not–you might realize that there is much more of something else than you ever realized: like the math and insurance concerns of coaster design), then you are in a perfect place to ask, “Hey, do you have any entry level positions or internships available?”

A Myth

Don’t look at the newspaper for jobs. Jobs listed in the paper are generally the jobs that nobody wants. That’s why companies pay to advertise them there. Good products never need to be advertised.

Category: Education

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