The Career Path I Didn’t Consider (But Should Have)

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I graduated from college in 1993 and got a job at Fidelity Investments as a customer service representative. It was a prestigious company in Boston, and after majoring in English, I was delighted to have an opportunity to be trained in something in the financial services industry. It seemed practical and, at such a big and eminent organization, opportunities to climb the corporate ladder seemed limitless.

It didn’t take me long before I realized that, no matter how limitless the opportunities seemed, moving up the corporate ladder would be slow and require navigating tons of bureaucracy. I also didn’t like working odd-hour shifts, having my bathroom breaks monitored, or having to explain to crackpots why their mutual fund account went down that day.

I knew I was unhappy, but I had no idea what else was out there in the world for someone without much work experience.

One of my biggest regrets from my 20s is that I didn’t know how to explore career options. And more specifically, I did not understand the concept of startups or equity. I thought working was about working for salary. But if you go to work for a startup, especially early on, you’ll get something else: stock (or “equity”) in the company. And if the startup you work for succeeds, the stock you get could end up being worth significantly more than your salary.

As a new grad in Boston in the 90s, I had no concept of this. But an ambitious person graduating from college today should think about it. There are a lot more startups today, and you can in effect become an early investor in one by going to work for it.

Startups are companies that are designed to grow fast, usually because of technology. They usually represent new ideas that never existed before or that are a drastic improvement over what was previously available. Startups typically begin with just a few people and grow rapidly once the company figures out its product and secures funding.

Yes, startups are very risky, and they often fail. But when they don’t fail, their stock can become quite valuable.

I wish I’d taken a job as an early employee at a startup and gotten some equity when I graduated from college. I didn’t have tons of experience but, boy, did I work hard and care about the work I did. Startups often have more flexibility on hiring people without credentials. They don’t have corporate ladders, just stuff that needs to get done. You can often join doing one thing, learn on the job quickly, and work on something more important very soon, if you are effective enough.

Check Out Amazing Startups Hiring Now!

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