Let me start with two quotes:
The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.
― Roseanne Barr
This seems to be a variation of Malcolm X’s saying:
Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
The “if you’re a man” part is slightly unsuitable on this website, but otherwise Malcolm X’s quote is just as good for what I will talk about today. I want to talk about finding your dream job and what I’ve learnt on how to go about it. As you can see in the title, I have come to the conclusion that your dream job does not exist anywhere. Nobody else has created it for you. Whenever you work for someone else, you are serving their interest, not yours. Of course there may be an overlap for some time and to some degree. But it will rarely be you dream job.
You might say you know people who have found their dream job, and you are probably right, but how many people do you know? Perhaps 1% of the people you know, if not less? So let me talk for the other 99% of people. And for those 99% of people, the sooner they realise that their dream job will only exist once they make it, the better.
I became more and more sure of this a couple of months ago, and let me tell you how. Because I am part of the McKinsey alumni network, and I am one of the very few alumni who now work as traders, I frequently get emails from associates and EMs (project managers) at McKinsey looking to switch to a hedge fund or investment management. I am always happy to help, especially now that I have set up a career website, it’s a great way to see what people in the industry are trying to do, what their motivations are and how easily they can switch jobs. So I had a call with a McKinsey EM in one of the US offices who wanted to do equity investment management instead. He had talked to hedge funds and asset managers and found it hard to switch. He said he really wanted to invest in equities but had exhausted his options and didn’t know what more he could do. It sounded like his dream was to invest in stocks for a living but he kept working at McKinsey because he hadn’t found an alternative job, and he didn’t have much time to spend on job search or on researching equities because he was working such long hours at McKinsey.
It just freaked me out. If you want to invest in equities, just do it! If you have $10,000 or $20,000 (and I assume you should have at least that after working at McKinsey for a couple of years), who can stop you from investing in equities? If it goes well, great, you generate income from it, and your capital will grow over time. If it doesn’t go well, well then maybe it’s not the best thing to consider as your dream job. If you do really well, maybe you don’t need the job and can just do it for yourself. Or you can go to any company and show them your track record and they will hire you.
It works with a lot of things. When I went on maternity leave, I was planning to write a book about my time at McKinsey, and another one on my experience on the trading floor during the financial crisis (the McKinsey one is half finished, the other one I think will take some more time), and I was starting to worry about how to find a publisher and all that, until I realised I don’t need to wait for anyone to give me approval. I will just write it and publish it myself, and there you go, I am free and I don’t depend on anyone to make it happen (it doesn’t mean it won’t help me a lot to reach out to others for help, what I mean is that I don’t need to kill my dream just because some editor or publisher doesn’t like my work).
With all the technology today, there are really very few things you cannot do if you are passionate about them, and the barriers are breaking down. The only fields that still have heavy restrictions are probably law and medicine, but beyond that, who can stop you from pursuing your dream? Don’t wait for anyone to give you a job. If you want to do something, just do it, and money will follow. Set up a website, write a book, invest your money yourself, find your own clients to consult, create a product, design a t-shirt, whatever. There is software for almost anything, you can google anything, you can outsource or learn whatever it is you cannot yet do yourself, and that way you don’t need to wait for anyone to give you approval or permission to pursue you dreams.
We spend so many years in highschool and university wondering what our dream job is, and the truth is, only you can make it happen. Nothing out there has been perfectly adapted to your passions and your talent yet, but the great thing is, nowadays, you can create it yourself.
So let me adapt Malcolm X’s words:
Nobody can give you a dream job or happiness or anything. If you’re smart, you just take it!
ps: wow, just when I published this, I saw this post by Tim Ferriss: 8 steps to getting what you want, without formal credentials. If you enjoyed my post, you will like this, too – slightly different angle, but same message: don’t wait, just do it!!!