By Andrew Dunn (W’12)
This is the blog post I wish somebody had told me to read exactly one year ago. I hope it resonates with those of you who are a bit confused, frustrated, or stressed while going through the job search process. Perhaps it may even inspire you.
It’s no secret that entrepreneurship is white-hot right now at Wharton. With all the buzz surrounding the likes of Warby Parker, the Lore guys, and the Firefly / Airtime for email teams, Josh Kopelman’s big move to 4040 Locust (fun fact: 4040 was Urban Outfitters’ first location), plus new clubs and competitions and course offerings across Penn, students have noticeably begun to take a strong interest in the startup world. This is the reason many of us applied to Wharton in the first place — to learn how to build a successful business, at the best place in the world to learn about business. Poll the class of 2013 and most would consider themselves “entrepreneurial,” yet they are still churning out cover letters and suiting up to meet with a laundry list of prestigious firms, in higher numbers than ever. There are certainly legitimate reasons to pursue a corporate position right out of college, but the peer pressure to lock down a high power job is discouraging to those who want to pursue an idea or a nontraditional academic/career path. I’d like to add some substance to the oft-repeated claim: There are other opportunities out there that may be better for you. And fortunately, this is especially true if you dream of being an entrepreneur.
Perhaps my story will help. I wrote my college admissions essay on entrepreneurship (and extreme sports), but my academic path while at Wharton took nearly 4 years to reflect those career ambitions, while I bounced around from real estate and finance to media and tech. It didn’t happen overnight, but I gradually began immersing myself in the entrepreneurship community at Penn through a combination of classes, clubs, internships, events, reading, and research, having recognized that this was where I felt my skills, personality, and interests were best suited. However, when fall of senior year came around, I found myself applying to many of the same big name companies because I was not sure what other options I had.
And then something amazing happened. I was awarded a grant by the Weiss Tech House Innovation Fund to continue the development of one of my original ideas, tik tak tee, and subsequently worked harder my second semester of senior year than in any other semester I can remember. I was learning more and having more fun than I could ever remember. It was far and away the most fulfilling time spent at Penn; meeting with professors and students and professionals from all corners of the school and city, applying my Wharton education in the real world and constantly continuing to learn. Most importantly, it affirmed my passion for entrepreneurship. I had it in me: I had the skills and personality; I had the desire.
But then another amazing thing happened. That spring I found out about dozens of job opportunities significantly more attractive than those encountered in the fall. GigaOM University, Airbnb Graduate Programme, Venture Development Analyst at Rocket Internet, CEO Apprentice at Lore, marketing at Hopper, Boston Startup School, Venture for America, internships at Trigger Media venture incubator, and compelling opportunities at too many other startups too name. I can’t fathom the sense of regret I would have felt had I settled for something in the fall that my heart wasn’t into.
Understand that you are in an incredibly fortunate position to interview for nearly any job opportunity that you can imagine, or even create your own. If you are not truly happy with that offer you are considering accepting, DON’T! Why on Earth would you settle for anything less than something you are crazy excited about? It just doesn’t add up. The several ventures I have my hands in at the moment may not afford me a jet-setting lifestyle (yet), but they are enhancing my network and skill set every day, while giving me the flexibility to pursue side projects and whatever happens to pique my interest. In short, the ride since graduation has been a blast, and I feel more than great about what I am doing now as well as what the future will hold. The journey has not come without its challenges, efforts, and uncertainty, but that’s a big part of the fun.
You are bright, creative, well connected and resourceful 22-year-olds. If you can cover your bases, there is no reason not to take these ‘risks,’ especially if you think you have it in you. You will figure it out. Steve Jobs says it beautifully. I challenge you to take a chance, take off the blinders for a second and look around to see what’s out there. Reach out to a startup founder or an alum working at a company you admire, submit an idea to one of the many entrepreneurship organizations on campus, take a personal tech trek to New York or San Francisco, get coffee with a professor or somebody in class who impressed you. Just do something different, something out of the ordinary. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You’ll find a better opportunity?
“Wait two years” to get excited about what you’re doing with your life, or start now. You have a Wharton degree, now go out there and make that mean something.
Andrew (W ’12) graduated from Wharton in May with concentrations in Management (Entrepreneurship and Innovation) and Operations and Information Management. He recently participated in the inaugural class of Boston Startup School, is currently in a marketing role for a NYC Startup called Host Committee while working on a venture of his own, tik tak tee, and has plans to teach English in Korea next year. Andrew blogs at andrewmurraydunn.tumblr.com.