Yesterday, after accepting a Linkedin connection request from a friend, I found myself perusing the list of “People I may know” that Linkedin automatically populates based on my current connections. As I scrolled down the list and as the people became less familiar to me, I saw a name I hadn’t thought about in years—and I was shocked.
This person was an acquaintance from my high school years whose name I will keep anonymous, but for this post I will refer to as Chelsea. Chelsea went to a different high school than I did, but we knew each other through mutual friends. In her teens Chelsea was an amazing painter. And I mean not just amazing for a high-schooler, but amazing for anybody. I remember being blown away by her talent every time I saw her work. She was brilliant.
So why did my jaw drop when I saw Chelsea’s name on Linkedin? Because underneath her name was the name of her current employer… an investment bank.
How, I wondered, did Chelsea of all people become an investment banker? Or maybe more importantly, why? I felt a tinge of disappointment imagining all of the artistic talent going unused as Chelsea sits at her desk crunching numbers for 100 hours a week. It bummed me out.
Now I don’t mean to disparage Chelsea or her career choice here. She may very well love her job. It’s no doubt a tough job to get, and if she can do that AND paint like Monet she is clearly off the charts multitalented.
I also don’t mean to disparage the idea of working on Wall St. Many of my good friends work on Wall St. and I work in a finance-related consulting job. And even though I have a few qualms about the current wealth disparity gap in the U.S. and some of the poorer decisions that have been made on Wall St. in the last several years, I am certainly not an “Occupier.”
I don’t know how Chelsea’s path led her to a job in finance. But seeing her picture next to the name of that big bank (you’d know it if I said the name) got me thinking about how elite colleges these days have a way of funneling kids into the worlds of finance and consulting. I can’t tell you how many of my college friends came in to school wanting to work in politics or international non-profits or tech startups or medicine or the music industry etc, and left four years later having signed an offer letter with Deutsche Bank or Deloitte.
Why does this happen? On one level it’s obvious. Consulting and (especially) finance jobs are well paid and prestigious. After being an academic star in high school and attending a prestigious university, it’s logical that the next step for a person would be Morgan Stanley or Accenture. I get that.
But on a deeper level it also seems pretty illogical… or at the very least odd. I would guess that about seventy five percent of my college friends (yes, including me) currently work in finance or consulting. Seventy Five Percent! Doesn’t that seem like a lot? I find it hard to believe that many of my friends are truly passionate about investment banking. In fact, I know they are not. And I know none of them wanted to be strategy consultants when they were twelve… or even seventeen. But still, we went to good colleges and then took these jobs because… well I guess it felt like the right thing to do. Maybe it’s not our passion, but it leaves a lot of doors open and is a virtual guarantee of financial security.
But will these jobs make us happy? Will they bring more meaning or value to our lives than any other type of job could? Should we have pursued different career paths?
I wish I could answer those questions. I would love to write a brilliant paragraph or two about how the system is broken and how all the incentives are misaligned. I’d love to say exactly what careers we, as a country should be funneling our best and brightest into. I’d love to present the solution to all of our problems and lay out a blueprint to ensure that my kids and their friends end up pursuing careers they are truly passionate about.
But I can’t make that argument and I can’t write that blueprint. First of all, even trying to do so would feel pretty hypocritical since I too work in the world of management consulting. Second, I can’t claim that taking my job has forced me to give up happiness in exchange for prestige and financial security. I’m a pretty happy guy. And third, even if my hunch is right and the system is “broken,” I certainly don’t know how to fix it, or even what a “fixed” system would look like. I can’t say what percentage of Harvard’s graduating seniors “should” be teachers or doctors or engineers or bankers or writers… or painters. What hypothetical pie chart of career choices would produce the best and happiest society? I just don’t know.
But I do have a gut feeling that whatever system we are currently using is at least slightly out of balance. Should Chelsea have been a painter rather than a banker? Who knows. Maybe she got sick of art and fell in love with pivot tables. Maybe she’ll rise to the top of her analyst class and become the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Or maybe after a couple years she’ll realize she hates it and quit to do something else.
Whatever happens I won’t pass judgment. If Chelsea willingly pursues a career in finance that’s totally OK. Though I still can’t help but wonder what all of the paintings she’ll never make would have looked like.
Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of South Park. In my opinion it’s one of the greatest TV shows of all time. But recently South Park has really been disappointing me. Only two or three episodes in Season 15 were great, and Season 16’s first four episodes have been terrible.
It’s hard to put into words what makes South Park so great. One minute they are killing it (in a good way) with lowbrow fart jokes and the next they are offering up some of the best cultural satire around. This, along with Matt and Trey’s ability to make fun of everybody, themselves included, makes up the special South Park sauce we all love.
Some seasons are stronger than others, and every one of them has at least a couple dud episodes, so I’m hoping that Season 16 is just getting off to a slow start. But so far they’ve really missed the mark
Take, for example, the fourth episode of this season “Jewpacabra.” I was excited when I saw the preview clip. Given the premise (Cartman attempts to warn the town of the Jewpacabra, a vicious beast that threatens to terrorize South Park’s Easter celebration) “Jewpacabra” had the potential to be a classic. The preview conjured thoughts of awesome episodes like “Die Hippie, Die” or “Fantastic Easter Special,” but instead it ended up being pretty stupid and un-funny.
I was completely blown away (in a bad way) when at the end of the episode Cartman sides with Kyle and converts to Judaism. …Um, what? That would have never happened in season 10. Cartman would have strung us along until we all actually believed he was being sincere and at the last minute catch us (and Kyle) off guard with a taunting “neh neh neh neh neh neh, heh heh heh heh heh heh.” That’s why Cartman is so great. He is so unflappably evil and obnoxious… yet lovable and endearing at the same time. These days he’s… well… not. And without Cartman South Park can’t be consistently funny. I can only hope that in the next episode Cartman will come to his senses and go back to his classic hilarious evil ways.
Season 16′s strongest episode so far was probably “Faith Hilling.” It had the recipe for a classic South Park episode: basically they come up with a joke making fun of some fad or pop culture trend and beat the shit out of it for 23 straight minutes. And that’s what “Faith Hilling” (poking fun at cultural memes like planking, Tebowing, Bradying, etc) was. But it didn’t have that same great South Park flavor. The formula was there, but the satire just wasn’t as spot-on or nuanced or silly-in-just-the-right-way as South Park so often used to be.
I really hate writing this. I think Matt and Trey are geniuses and I’m hoping that this is just a phase and that we’ll be back to the good old South Park soon. But I have a creeping feeling that South Park may have finally jumped the shark. Sigh…
I work at a tech/consulting firm where I spend most of my time on the sales team trying to bring in new clients. I’m relatively new to sales and in my first few months on the job I’ve learned a couple lessons that have helped me a lot–not just in sales, but also in other areas of my personal and professional lives. Some might find these points obvious. I, unfortunately, learned them the hard way.
1. Don’t be intimidated by the guy you’re talking to. He’s just a guy with a job.
It’s easy to get nervous before talking to a new person, whether on a sales call or in a social setting. When I started in sales I worried a lot about what the person on the other end of the conversation would think of me. What if I said something stupid? What if they asked a question I didn’t know the answer to?
Once I got a little more comfortable with the material I was talking about I started to realize that the guy on the other end of the phone, even if he is a senior-level person, is just like me—he’s just a guy with a job. And while I always try to be respectful and polite, there is no reason to put these people up on a pedestal either in sales situations or elsewhere. The people you talk to are just regular people. So relax.
2. Don’t have a sales pitch, just have a conversation.
When you are new to sales it’s tempting to cling to rehearsed pitch or speech, and for a while it might be necessary to use your pitch as a crutch. But the sooner you can stop pitching and start having a real conversation with the person you are “selling” to, the better you’ll do. This means listening a lot, asking smart questions and responding in a genuine human way rather than with canned sales-y answers.
In personal conversations I know I don’t always listen well enough. I’ll sit there hearing what the other person is saying, but in my head will just be waiting for them to finish so I can say the thing I’ve been wanting to say. I’m trying to break this habit by actually listening well, asking smart questions and being truly interested and engaged with what they have to say. But breaking habits is hard…
3. Frame the conversation in terms of what the other guy wants, not what you want.
This is related to point number 2 and is straight out of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” In sales you’ll often be talking to extremely busy people with goals to meet and bosses to please. And if you go into a conversation focusing solely on what you want (i.e. to sell them something) you’ll probably have a tough time holding their attention. Instead try to frame the conversation in terms of what they want. Do they have a problem they are trying to solve or a pain point that you can address? If so, then there is probably a great opportunity.
Before a sales meeting I’ll look up the prospect’s info and based on what I find will ask myself “What does this guy want and how can I help him get it?” And if I can’t figure it out beforehand I’ll just ask him straight up. Admittedly, navigating personal relationships probably requires a bit more finesse than this, but the same principle applies. People will like you if you help them get what they want, and they’ll probably help you in return. However, this doesn’t mean you should be fake or expect them to do something for you in return. It’s easy to spot when a person is not being genuine and it’s an obvious turn-off.
Hope this helps some people out!
Since graduating from Georgetown and moving away from DC I’ve found myself watching many more Hoya hoops games on TV. And over the last season of televised games it has become painfully clear that basketball announcers love to latch onto a handful of “compelling anecdotes” and beat the absolute shit out of them. (Oh really, Henry Sims has improved a lot this year? No effing way!)
So a couple weeks ago I started taking mental notes of the stuff that announcers ALWAYS seem to be saying during this season’s Hoyas games. If I were cooler and could do a better Bill Raftery/Doris Burke impression I probably would have made a “Shit Georgetown Basketball Announcers Say” YouTube video, but I’m not, so I decided to kill an hour at work today and make the Shit Georgetown Basketball Announcers Say Bingo board instead.
If you catch any of Georgetown’s Big East or NCAA Tournament games on TV over the next few weeks print this bad boy out and start playing. Chances are you’ll black the board out before half time. (And if you turn it into a drinking game and do a shot every time one of these phrases or topics is mentioned you’ll probably black out too—so I don’t recommend it).