Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious People by Eric Jorgenson Summary
Finding a great boss or manager is the most important part of having a successful career.
Find a Great Manager
A great manager will be a huge help. They’ll know what you need to learn, make sure you’re fairly compensated, make sure you get credit for your ideas, progress in your career, etc.
Finding the best boss or manager is the most important—this is choosing happiness over status. Most people try to get the highest status job at an impressive business but they often hate their job and boss because of it.
You have to get out there and find your “soulmate” manager.
The best way to get a powerful person’s attention: offer to help them.
Help others first and they will reciprocate—even the highly successful.
"But the truth is, what [Bill Gates] craves, and what you might have, is information. A unique perspective. An insight on something that’s happening in your corner of the universe. He can’t buy that off a shelf. If you can connect information you know to something Gates needs—then maybe you can help him."
- Your perspective and ideas are what you have to offer.
Regardless of your job title, it is your job to try to (1) solve your boss’ problems and to (2) make the company more money.
Possible helpful questions:
- What is a bottleneck in your business right now?
- Areas that have been overlooked for too long?
- Anything keeping you up at night right now?
- What is the “least solved” problem on your plate?
- What’s taking up most of your focus these days?
- Where do you think you’re wasting money?
You can ask these questions to get insights into their problems even before you work for them. Show them that you are willing to talk over and help them solve their problems.
Once you get closer to the manager, ask them for a job.
Remind them how fast you learn and how hard you work and how much this opportunity means to you. Remind them that you will go to war with them and never forget the chance they gave you – and mean it.
What jobs sound exciting to you? What do you want to do because it’ll contribute to an identity you will be proud of? Something that sounds smart and interesting? Something that will be instantly recognized as valuable and important? Probably working at a company with a great brand, or a fast-growing startup. Maybe a prestigious field like law or medicine. Yea, everyone else has the exact same thoughts. It’s because of the availability bias. We think more about the opportunities that we see most often. People keep starting restaurants though they are notoriously bad investments. Why?
Because the thought occurs to them so many times they think it’s a good one. Unfortunately, that’s how our brains work most of the time. This leads to more competition, more supply, lower demand, lower margins, and a lower success rate for restaurants. This works the same way for careers: A whole generation of kids with no idea what they wanted to do who wanted to sound smart and accomplished went to law school. These kids are now in debt from school and unable to find a job because there are now too many lawyers. So, to find a uniquely valuable niche to prosper in… dive below the obvious. Seek out the companies that are behind-the-scenes, that no one has ever heard of. Find huge, obscure and incredibly un-sexy things like digitizing medical records. Find piddly little overlooked needs like door hinges or hot-tub liners.
The implication being that boring is often incredibly profitable, and that should matter more than sounding cool at a bar. To most people, it’s NOT more important to be successful than seem successful. They choose the short-term reward, not the long-term reward. Their weakness creates your opportunity.
Find a confusing, boring, hard-to-explain career. Then you can sit there with people with sexy jobs, quietly smiling at the fact that you are tripling their income and they have no idea. That’s the life.
From a different author: Early in your career the market trend you ride may be the biggest future determinant for your success. Joining a company in a great market means there will be tons of companies who want to hire you, and many high growth opportunities within your own company or across other companies in the same market. People went from Netscape to Google, from Google to Facebook, and now from Facebook to other leading Internet companies. In contrast, people who joined telecom equipment companies in the 90's are best case still at Cisco (if they are lucky). Choose your market wisely.
- You want to get 1-2 brands that make you look good on your resume. Ex) An Ivy League college or a job at Google. These will make people think you are good and they are more likely to hire you because you made it through prestegious screening (there must be something good about you).
You can specialize by being a unique generalist.
Another way to create specialization is by mastering two (or more) skills, instead of one. Overlapping perspectives that will give you a unique advantage in your field, or with a certain kind of client.
We could run this example with a lawyer who spent years mastering sales skills, or a top college basketball player who learned data analysis to be a standout hire for an NBA team.
Computers provide very fast feedback loops. Cooking provides fast feedback loops. Even within the same industry, context can change your learning speed: Door-to-door sales provides very fast feedback loops. Long-cycle enterprise sales has much slower feedback loops.
- You generally want fast and highly correlated/causal feedback loops so that you can quickly self-analyze and improve.
Set high goals and short deadlines.
Find jobs with compensation structures that are based on your success and your progress.
Get into an industry that allows you to get way higher returns for being exceptional: The best CEOs, software developers, traders, or salespeople might make 100 or 1,000 times more than average. These careers have a very wide distribution of skill. The best can be much, much, much better than the worst.
What jobs minimize downside?
Any job with tenure would be a good bet. Being a teacher at any level often comes with tenure, and the worst teachers often make just as much as the best.
Working in a civic job or being lost in the machinations of a giant, inefficient old company are shelter from a hectic pace of work or high-pressure performance standards.
If you’re looking for a place to hide, coast, or just collect a paycheck while you focus on other things… reverse all the advice in this book and see if that’s not a perfect guide. Seek accountability and responsibility and succeed, you’ll be rewarded and celebrated. Carefully avoid responsibility and accountability and you will be neither rewarded nor cared about.
Read blogs or biographies or whatever you can find about the unique aspect of the industry you’re curious about.
The more obviously and closely your job is tied to creating revenue, the more valuable the skill and the safer the career.
Revenue-drivers could be sales, business development, marketing… even product development or production.
Necessary evils are functions that are viewed as a cost, rather than an investment. In most organizations, they try to reduce the costs of HR, Accounting, Legal, Facilities, etc. And companies are always trying to find ways to invest in more sales, better product, better customer service.
Universal skills that will always be valuable for (almost) any company:
- More sales
- Lower Costs
- Better Products
Whether or not you are in your current situation because of your deliberate choices, it is crucial to appear as though you are. Always look like you have control over your career, even though you may not (and no one fully does).
If you aren’t sure what you want to do as a career, get real-world experience immediately. Just start with a job and see whether you like it. Counterintuitively, the “real world” is the place to learn what you want to do. School is the place to get the training and certificate to go into that career (when necessary).
When you find your spot, dive deep and learn fast. Make it clear to your team and your company that you are all-in. Do the extra work to learn the history, the industry, and everything you can to invest in your growth there.