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A Note To My Graduating MBA Students…

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

Since your graduation many of you have contacted me seeking advice; advice centered on how to find a job in a certain field, where to start, what do I think you will be good at, and the list goes on…

You all want to find a dream job that’s gratifying and consequential, but what does that actually mean?

I have always preached to you to be passionate about what you do and you will be successful. This is true, but I want to differentiate being passionate from finding your passion.

Many of you have told me you don’t know what you are passionate about. That’s totally understandable…given your age and life experiences. Discovering what you are passionate about will not appear in a flash of insight! So your job hunt – at this stage of your career – may not include finding that job or career you are passionate about. What you should focus on is doing any job you do with passion. You will never know what you love to do unless you do different jobs and do them well…doing them well, frequently leads to other opportunities which could eventually lead to discovering what you are truly passionate about.

So, when looking for a job, be more concerned with the following three elements:

1. Doing engaging work

Employee engagement is about positive attitudes and behaviors leading to improved business outcomes. Engaged employees are committed to and passionate about their work.

Engaging work always holds your attention. When work is engaging four hours feels like one hour because it held your interest. If you feel the need to check Social Media at the expense of an assignment due by days’ end, you are not in the right job, you are not engaged, you are not doing engaging or interesting work.

So, what keeps the job interesting?

A.  Are you empowered to decide how the job gets done?

B.   Are your goals, objectives…and therefore daily tasks clearly defined? If not, are you comfortable in a state of ambiguity? And is your boss?

C.  Is there variety in your daily/weekly tasks?

D.  Are you able to measure your successes or failures through clearly measurable results…and is there specific feedback to accompany those results?

2. Doing work that helps others

Is your job meaningful to you…and to others? You are more likely to be engaged if what you do has meaning to others. Is your organization providing a consequential service? This is a necessary ingredient in your job satisfaction and because you spend 40 hours at work this leads to life satisfaction.

As Confucius says “If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”

3. Doing work that matches your strengths

You are more likely to be engaged and motivated to do a good job if you are ABLE to do a good job. Being able to do a good job means being able to learn and develop as quickly as possible with or WITHOUT the help of a good leader/manager/supervisor or mentor. This is more easily attained if you know your strengths, and find a job, which utilizes them.

The faster you are able to learn is the faster you become an expert, the faster you will be promoted, the faster you become part of the ’in-group,’ and therefore the faster you are able to influence your boss, the process, and the requirements of the job itself. So know your strengths!

Please note: I’m not saying to do a job that you are already good at, knowing you may not like what you are good at. But identifying your strengths will inform the potential you may have to use your strengths in a different way.

What should you pay less attention to?

·     Money / Salary

·     Avoiding Stress

·     Job Security

Money is important, however it should not be a factor in identifying your ideal job unless the salary is exploitative or significantly below market rates. A high salary attached to a job with no meaning or interest to you is counterproductive to the possibility of your future success.

Stress can be a huge negative, but remember not all stress is bad. There is frequently a great deal of stress associated with an engaging and meaningful job. You should weigh the stress associated with a great job against the virtues of the job itself.

Job security is a phenomenon that ended with globalization and the rise of the Internet. Worldwide competition and the speed of change (due to said competition and innovation) have made it almost impossible for any employer to provide job security. Hence the rise of short-term contract jobs, the gig economy, and project management!

So a final thought: The perfect job for you…that engaging, purposeful job…may be stressful, will likely provide no job security and may not make you rich.

Take it anyway!


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