By Don Fornes
For as far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a businessman. Never mind that I really had no idea what kind of business career I would pursue, or what business people actually do each day. I simply understood that business people wore important clothes, were well respected, and, well, made lots of money.
This lack of understanding persisted through college, where the most I did to prepare for a career in business was to study economics, rather than, say history or English. Nevertheless, late in my senior year I received a job offer from an investment bank in New York. The role sounded important, paid well, and was focused on two industries that I was told were good places to be – health care and high tech. Sold! I was now a global financier (not really – I mainly made PowerPoint slides and bound “pitch books”).
Many of my classmates took similar jobs. While we all found our own way to New York, there v ery well should have been a convoy of buses taking us from graduation to Wall Street.
This brings me to the subject of this post: Amidst today’s global state of affairs, do talented young graduates have a moral imperative to consider more deeply the implications of their career choices on our nation’s future? Mankind’s future?
I believe they do, and that they will find personal fulfillment as a result.
Too Many Talented Graduates Head Off to Wall Street
The United States is at a critical juncture where individual career choices will greatly impact our ability to compete in the global economy. Too many of our most talented young people are choosing lucrative careers in finance, but fail to make a positive impact on our country’s global competitiveness. These future leaders could start exciting new companies and create new jobs. They could lead innovative manufacturing companies and design revolutionary new products and services. Instead, they are opting for “golden crumbs” – the fees they earn for managing other people’s money.
Certainly plenty of idealists and altruists walk across the graduation stage each spring. Some become doctors, educators, activists or environmental engineers. This post isn’t about them. I’m focused on the graduates who pursue a career in business, broadly defined.
These young capitalists have the right to pursue wealth creation, and in the United States we applaud their success, with only a secondary consideration of what path they take to achieve their prosperity.
However, this is changing, and for good reason. Since the financial crisis of 2008, investment bankers have fallen from grace as a result of their industry’s complicity in creating the whole mess (and not paying the consequences). By association, their colleagues in hedge funds, private equity and other fields of finance took plenty of heat as well. Perhaps only venture capitalists escaped the heat, because without them we might not have Facebook, right?
Nevertheless, thousands and thousands of our most talented graduates are still angling for a career with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Many of these financiers then move up the chain to work at hedge funds and private equity shops.
A Framework for Finding Career Fulfillment
Well this has been a heck of a rant for an ex-banker… So what is the right career choice for a talented graduate?
Well, I think we need to start with a framework for career fulfillment. Borrowing from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I’ve sketched out my own hierarchy for a fulfilling career.
In my framework, making money is critical – the foundation of a capitalist career. Beyond that, each step should serve to advance the career through continued learning and growth. However, it won’t be long before any introspective person needs more than money and career progression. They will want to be passionate about what they do. This might not mean they love the subject matter or day-to-day activities, but they must be impassioned by the momentum and progression of their job.
Read the rest of Don’s article on the Software Advice blog.
Don Fornes is the Founder & CEO of Software Advice and a graduate of Princeton University. Previously Don has held positions as an ERP analyst at an investment firm and as a corporate development executive at a pioneering CRM software company. He enjoys observing the evolution of software markets, including changing competitive dynamics, the impact of disruptive innovations and the success or failure of marketing strategies. Don lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Lauren, daughter Hudson and bernese mountain dog Stinson.
Photo: Mays Business School