Career Advice You Should Have Learned in School, But Probably Didn’t


Have you ever thought of having a career that was so amazing that you are genuinely excited to go to work every day of your life? A career where you love Monday through Friday more than you love the weekends? One of the most valuable pieces of career advice I got came from the book "Good to Great" by Jim Collins in which he goes over an idea that provides some very tangible advice on how to achieve this exact type of career. It’s an idea he calls the Hedgehog Concept. The long story short is that if a company wants to be ridiculously successful at their business, the company must be disciplined to focus their resources around activities that fit three critical criteria; they’re passionate about it, they’ve mastered their craft, and they provide value that others are willing to pay for. This concept applies to individuals too because the only way to have a great company is to have great people within the company that follow the same criteria. For individuals, it is absolutely vital to have a career that fits all three criteria because like a tripod, if any one of the legs is missing, the tripod will collapse. Here we will take a look at if either one of these is missing.

What if you don’t have passion for what you do? First of all, passion is defined as “strong and barely controllable emotion.” If you don’t feel this a majority of the time that you’re at work, this is a strong sign that you’re probably on the wrong career path, yet this is the trap that most people fall for. So often in school you’re only told to get good at a skill so that you can get a job in order to make a living. One of the biggest reasons that school doesn’t emphasize passion is because our school system is built on an outdated system that originated at a time when the focus was to train future factory workers instead of knowledge workers, but that’s a whole different conversation within itself. Passion for your career is vital because when you’re passionate about what you do it will help drive you during hard times. In this world, hard times are guaranteed to come, and if you don’t love what you do those times are extremely draining. Do you know anyone that mastered a skill and the only reason they keep doing it is because they get paid for it, even though they hate their job? Those are the people that, in my experience, feel the most miserable.

What if you’re missing mastery of your craft? Generally speaking, if you love what you do, and you’re working in an industry where people would be happy to pay you tons of money, but you’re no good at what you do, that’s a recipe for mediocrity. The amount of money that people are willing to pay you is directly proportional to the perceived value that they receive from your product or service. One of the tricky aspects to this is that you have to be honest about what your strengths are, which can be limited by things like genetics. No matter how much I love playing professional basketball, at my current age (36 years) and height (5’ 4”) it’s damn near impossible that I would be able to master playing basketball to become professional. 

And finally, what if you’re not adding value to anyone that people are willing to pay for? This just means that you have a hobby. For many people, this is video games. There are so many people in the world that are elite at playing certain video games. They get to that point because they love playing and naturally improve at it over time. However, if they’re not playing in a way where others are willing to pay them for it, they still need some other sort of income to fund their habit, which is very likely something they are significantly less excited about doing. Not only that, thy would be spending at least 40 hours per week having to go to a job which otherwise could be used to add more value to others. 

So if you learn to work towards a career that fits all three criteria, something magical happens. You’ll love what you do so much that you’ll naturally want to keep getting better at it. The better you get at it, the more people will pay for it. The more people pay, the more you love your career and the more you can invest into mastering your craft even further. Now that’s a class everyone should major in. 

Steve Meim


Author: Steve Meim