What do you do when you discover that you don’t want to live your life doing the job that you are practically studying to get employed in? What do you do when you have been perhaps training for the wrong style of employment?
This is what I call a mid-college crisis. Its the type of crisis where you realize half way through college that you don’t want to do the primary type of job that your studies would make you eligible for. In my case, programming at a software company.
See, after interning in startups for five straight years, it seems like I have gotten enough opportunity to observe what a computer scientist in his / her early days of working does. We sit behind computer screens, and plank away at keyboards solving mathematical and analytical problems. Now, these problems can be incredibly rewarding to solve, don’t get me wrong, but they lack a certain sense of spontaneity and perhaps a certain level of human interaction. Problems aren’t humans, and after a while you crave talking and solving problems either with or for humans. And in this juxtaposition you can see the issue I have with computer science jobs: the lack of human interaction.
Now, this realization leaves me in a slightly dire situation. I have two years left in college, and I am hardly any good at any thing else. Like, I probably could not pass many other subjects at the school I am going to with the same efficiency that I can pass CS classes. So what should I do? How am I going to reinvent myself to have opportunities that are more satisfying to myself?
Raj De Dutta, the CEO of Bloomreach, wrote an interesting article on Linkedin about the benefits of working in a startup (go figure) while in your early 20s (link). The message was take risks, take chances, fix things that don’t satisfy you. Essentially, don’t be content to be dissatisfied. After all, according to him, a motivated 25 year old will, no matter how many times he/she fails, find a job at the end of it all. Reading this, I was ready to make some changes to my life.
First and foremost, I need to start identifying problem areas that I want to solve, and I need to find opportunities that let me explore those areas. In other words, I need to learn not to jump at every opportunity that comes my way, but selectively chose the ones that are the most interesting.
Secondly, as this article hints at, the most important factor in building a project, a company or anything else is the team of people involved. So, I need to find that super team, that fantastic five so to speak that lets me enjoy my work and perform at my highest. Somewhat like what Duncan’s spurs, or Heat’s trio of Wade, Bosh, and LeBron (used to be at least) were like. These two groups had great chemistry, great friendship, and even better work synergy which is what propelled them to glory. Its time I started looking out for finding the right people to work with, and started actually working with them.
And finally, as the Four Hour Workweek book tells me, I need to start optimizing for doing more meaningful work more of the time, while doing less work overall. I need to start mixing in fun and relaxation amongst my day, rather than cramming it into a Friday or a Saturday.
Maybe with these changes, life will be better. Maybe not. But at the very least I am going to try and see if that fixes my mid-college crisis. And who knows, maybe next time you talk to me, I may be working a realm that no one ever thought I would work in. But I guarantee you one thing, its time to find something new.