Last summer a friend and I traveled Europe for two weeks. Neither of us are the type of people who plan very well. In fact, getting onto our flight the only plan was Barcelona, a night or two in Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls and ending in Frankfurt a week and a half later. We didn’t know where we’d go and didn’t have lodging or trains booked. “We’ll figure it out,” we said.
Two weeks later, we had visited Barcelona, Pamplona, Montpellier, Nice, the Cinque Terre, Bern and Frankfurt. We had figured it out, on the fly. Half of our trains and all of our AirBnbs and hostels had been researched and booked on my phone without wifi, usually en route to whatever destination we had chosen a minute ago. We’d go to the train station, price out tickets and hop on whatever train we thought would get us there.
Our stay in Montpellier was decided at the train station when we couldn’t get all the way to Nice; I messaged back and forth with our Airbnb host from the train to coordinate our arrival. Our hostel in Frankfurt was booked from the floor of the Milan train station at 2am, with my phone at 4% battery. When we arrived in Frankfurt, we used turn-by-turn directions in GPS to discover that our hastily booked hostel was indeed in the Red Light District. Wondering what to do on Bastille Day in Nice, we looked up the best places to watch fireworks. Afterward, we looked up the best bars to go to and ended up finding a great bar with live music. Most importantly, I coordinated my home insurance over text message and wired the down payment for a condo purchase using the Chase website from a train. All without wifi, using cell service on my US phone for free.
We’re obsessed with success stories. We love to read about the latest IPO or overnight success and dream about it. We say “why can’t that happen to me?” while we sit on our couch covered in Doritos Locos Taco crumbs, getting annoyed when Netflix asks “are you still there?” Of course I am Netflix, now get on with the next episode of Parks and Rec.
Between episodes we look at our Facebook or Instagram feed and see our friends climbing a mountain or sitting on a beach somewhere. “Don’t they ever work? They got really lucky to get the job they have.” The last trip we took was to Iowa last year for a friend’s wedding, which was also the last time we negotiated a 3% raise at work.
Why do we expect extraordinary results when we’re doing the same ordinary things as everyone else?
I walked out of a meeting at 11am and felt a buzz in my pocket. I checked my phone to find 16 text messages in a group text from old college roommates, peer pressuring each other into buying presale tickets to the Outside Lands music festival in August. I debated whether or not I wanted in for about four seconds, until I remembered this delicious beast from last year:
I rushed back to my desk. Uh oh, the presale had already been up for an hour. I frantically typed my password, logged on to buy tickets and was greeted with this gem:
Damn! Of course, presale tickets sell out in a few minutes. I resigned myself that I had missed the window of opportunity due to a work meeting. I’d have to wait for normal sale tickets, but then they’d be even more expensive and be gone even faster. Then it hit me!
Here comes the first installation of the ‘Day in the Life’ series. Why are we reading about what jobs other people have?
High schoolers graduate and go to college without knowing what jobs are out there. Freshmen pick their majors and change them over and over again without knowing how it affects (or doesn’t affect) their future. Graduates take an entry-level job, grind out 40 hours a week and come home to crash on the couch to binge reruns on Netflix, wondering if they’re the only one who hasn’t found their passion.
We want to know what you do, why you do it, how you got there and what makes you good at it. We want to know if it’s for us, why we’d like it and what we need to do to get it.
What is your name? How old are you and what do you do? How long have you been there?
Hi Max! My name is Patrick, I’m 26 years old and I’ve been a Software Product Manager at a medical device company for about 3 years.
How did you find out about product management? Did you know that this job existed before?
I had never heard of Product Management, and it turns out not many people have. Business schools typically offer things like Accounting, Finance and Marketing. Not a major called Product Management. The closest thing might be found in an Entrepreneurial Business course, except from experience those courses typically help you practice “coming up with big ideas” instead of managing a series of product processes.
I usually explain it like this. Companies get big. Really big. Thousands of people working in a hundred different departments, each with a very specific task. Accounting manages the books. Sales takes orders. Development churns out product. It’s the most popular way to grow a business: hire quality people and let them do what they’re best at.
But as a company gets bigger and adds more and more products things go haywire pretty quickly. Suddenly the accounting team doesn’t know what they’re issuing an invoice for and they’ve never heard of that product. The Sales team has 30 things to sell and can’t remember the difference between Thing A and Thing B. So the company segments, and segments, and specializes, and specializes. Product Management is an attempt to beat the org chart. It’s about making someone in charge of a concept, not a task. If they own the concept, the tasks all fall in line beneath it.
What is a typical day like at work?
I sit, engulfed by a beanbag chair in the communal living room of a hostel in Krakow, surrounded by young people from around the world. Everybody has their story. Where they’re from, how they ended up here, where they’re going next. British voices across the room talk about taking their gap year, while German voices recount how they’re traveling after finishing university.
I’m engrossed, listening to somebody who grew up a half hour away from me talk about how she quit her job and decided to travel Europe for as long as she can. She’s 24, maybe 25, but she has been traveling for six months already.
“How did you do it?” I ask eagerly. “How did you save up enough to pay for six months of travel? Other people are out there trying to get jobs and you’ve already had yours, quit and backpacked around Europe.”
I lean in to make sure I don’t miss the secret. Her answer surprised me, and it went on to help me discover what career I’d make for myself.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Young Alumni Mentoring program’s Sophomore Summit at my alma mater. The program is for recent graduates to mentor sophomores in the business school; so far I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with these sophomores and help out where I can, even if it’s just reassuring them that the job search isn’t hopeless.
I was part of a group of alums helping out with interviewing skills. Given that I just recently completed a months long interview process, it was all very relevant to me.
Our group was responsible for covering the basic ‘get to know you’ interview questions as opposed to behavioral or resume questions. We pretty quickly realized that every group had the same questions. I recently read that you should do repeatable work that benefits everyone instead of one or two people – instead of writing an email, write a blog post.
On that note, here are some of the lessons that our group tried to impart for college students internship searching and interviewing.
Just want the summary? Enter your email address below to view summarized tips, examples and interview critiques.
“Frequent flyer programs take too long to earn free flights”
When I talk to friends about signing up for airline rewards programs and credit cards, the #1 concern I hear is “it takes too long to get enough points for free flights. It’s not worth it.” The funny part is that I completely agree – if it were up to me I’d get enough points every day and I could fly free whenever I want! I’d be on a plane to Buenos Aires right now. You can come too if you want.
Are you ready to earn quicker free flights? Read on.
Luckily there are people out there who will do all of the hard work for us and tell us exactly how to maximize our travel out of the goodness of their hearts. That’s what I’ve done with the Millennial’s Guide to World Travel. How to get travel for half the points? The best ways to rack up rewards points? It’s all in there.
The good news is that I’m not the only one with experiences and ideas, so here are a couple more to help you out!
A couple weeks ago I was on my way to San Francisco for a long weekend with some friends from college. I had just seen Foster the People at Red Rocks the night before and had an awesome time, but that late night wasn’t helping my early morning layover in LAX.
As soon as I landed I immediately found some coffee and a bagel to nurse before my next flight. I took a sip and settled down into an airport seat between a touchy couple and a teenager screaming into her phone. With an hour to spare I pulled out my phone and checked a few emails.
What’s this? I got an interesting email from Mint, the financial analysis service. I had just received a $40 fee on one of my credit cards. That’s a pretty sweet way to start a vacation.
The sad part is that the card that got charged is one that I don’t even use for anything besides length of credit history. $40 for a card with a small credit limit that I only pay my gym membership with… sweet. I looked into it and found out it was a $40 annual fee that I had already been paying for a few years without even knowing it. On the outside I was calm, collected Max but on the inside I was Frank Costanza.
Think about a typical day at work. Are you excited about what you’re doing, or are you dreading it and waiting to sneak out at 5? If the latter, you’re not alone. According to Gallup, 13% of workers worldwide are engaged at work while the other 87% are either not engaged or actively disengaged. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of time miserable at work. In the US the numbers are 30% and 70%. Better, but still not great odds for you and me.
We want to be in the 30% of people who are inspired and motivated and enjoy what they do! Not only because we’ll be happier at work, but also because people who are happier at work perform better and get recognized for it. But most of all, you’re going to spend half of your waking hours at work so you’d better find something you can tolerate. The alternative? Waiting it out and hoping that it’ll get better. You know the quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It may not have been Albert Einstein, but it still makes some sense here. It’s going to take a concerted effort to define and find the type of work that you thrive in.
We all agree that we want to be happy at work. Our whole lives we’ve been told “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” or “follow your passion.” Those both sound great. On the other hand, they’re not actionable and they don’t tell us HOW to figure it out.
I studied abroad my junior year in college and lived in Perugia, Italy. It’s a beautiful little mountain town filled with college students attending three different schools. It actually reminds me of Boulder in that way.
Amazing food was plentiful. My favorite class was History and Culture of Food in Italy. There were as many restaurants, pasticerrias (bakeries) and cafes as you would want in walking distance. I got to try a few amazing meals in Perugia, but the majority of my meals were cooked at home since I ran out of money in October and illegally took on a job bartending to make some extra cash.
You know what they say. More euros, more problems (not true when you don’t have any euros).