By Jim Plew, 2013 Venture for America Fellow
For years, I was a perfect example of your typical over-achieving undergrad. Finance major. Investment Banker-to-be. I was driven, capable, and determined to be the best. And I was damn proud of it.
That's because I wasn't alone. Like many of my peers, I was relentless in my pursuit of achievement and unwavering in my pursuit of success. And for me, success meant the corner office at a Big Bank or a Fortune 500 company. Almost every decision I made in the early part of my undergraduate career was shaped by this desire to "make it to the top."
So, what's wrong with this picture? Isn't ambition a good thing? I certainly thought so, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you what I was missing.
At the height of my feverish climb toward these glamorous careers, I had a discussion with a graduate admissions advisor about my career path and what I needed to do to get there. As always, I had loads of questions and was determined to walk away with answers to every last one of them. But after some time, the only answer I came away with went something like this: "If you don't love it, don't do it. Everything else will take care of itself."
I'll never forget those words, but I was slightly aggravated upon hearing them at first. Here I was thinking that I had it all figured out and all I needed were a few more concrete answers to reinforce my original assumptions. But what I got only spurred more questions, and most of them were very difficult to answer.
Perhaps the most important question was this: Why did I really select Investment Banking?
Once I was honest with myself, I discovered that I didn't like the answer. Like most of my peers, I chose I-Banking because it was the "thing to do" if you were a smart and ambitious business student; you just followed the rest of your equally aspirational peers into I-Banking or Consulting. These are both very challenging and rewarding paths, but so are many other careers. I realized that I had never even stopped to consider my own genuine beliefs and values, and without this self-awareness, I was channeling all of my energy and ambition into a career that wasn't for me. And the worst part is: Many of us are.
It's time for my generation to face an ugly truth: Life is too short to chase a career you aren't passionate about. And this doesn't just apply to those pursuing Investment Banking... it applies to everyone.
If you don't love it, don't do it.
So, what do I love? At the core, I love start-ups. The chance to build, to create, to innovate. I was drawn in to the culture of entrepreneurship from the first moment I experienced it. However, I had all but written it off as a feasible career option post-graduation for several reasons:
- The risk associated with starting a business after college with very few resources was daunting.
- There was no direct link to join an existing start-up through campus recruiting.
- This route was somewhat stigmatized as a path reserved only for those crazy enough not to want a typical white-collar job.
Enter Venture for America: A program for young, talented grads to spend 2 years in the trenches of a start-up. In effect, Venture for America brings the recruiting and resources startups lack to graduates like me who are looking for a way in.
I was sold. And as I read more about the program, I began to realize something astounding: my truest and deepest beliefs and values were central to the mission and goals of this program.
Finally, I no longer felt crazy. After using my energy and abilities in the wrong place for so long, I wanted to finally redirect them toward something I cared about. I wanted a fulfilling career that aligned with my beliefs and values. I wanted to see my actions have a real impact on the organization I worked for and create change for the common good. And most importantly, I wanted to stand for something that matters. This was my chance.
VFA poses these simple questions: What would happen if more talent were redirected from larger cities and corporations and into smaller cities and start-ups? How long would it take to build more jobs and renew our economy through a culture that emphasizes value-creation?
With an immediate goal of generating 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025, Venture for America is well on its to making this happen. But we need your help. If you agree that this is a cause worth believing in, join me and take a stand for something that matters.
Jim Plew is a member of the Venture for America Class of 2013 and a senior Finance and International Studies major at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Jim spent a semester as an intern at Merrill Lynch, and then discovered his passion for startups after receiving university funding and support to develop a software venture on campus. To support Jim and Venture for America as part of the JobRaising Challenge, make a contribution today.