By Tala Strauss

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San Francisco

For spring break this year I didn’t dig out my swimsuit and head to the beach. Instead, I packed a pencil skirt and prepared myself for two days of interviews in Silicon Valley, to collect advice for college students preparing for the world of work.

My first interview was with Joshua To, managing director at Hattery, an “ideas and innovation lab.” Josh’s first job out of college was proofreading ads at Google, where he learned attention to detail. His advice coming out of that experience was that it might be a good thing to start with a job you don’t love: “You stand to learn more by doing a job you don’t enjoy. At the same time, be unbelievably curious and figure out what you’re really excited about.”

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Hattery

Josh Kwan, co-founder of the accelerator program Praxis, told me about his years as a journalist after graduating from college. His advice focused on the freedom that young people have: we can go where the action is and do what other people can’t or don’t want to do. “You can be bolder when you’re younger,” he said. “When you’re young, you’re short on experience but long on time; invest that time. Time is what you have to offer. Apply that asset so you can get what you want.”

One piece of advice I received from Dave Evans, design professor at Stanford and co-founder of Electronic Arts, I was already following: don’t ask people for jobs, ask to interview them. “Why not get a night job pulling lattes at Starbucks, do three informational interviews a day all summer long, and come back having done interviews with sixty-five people in ten different organizations in eighteen different roles, half of them happy and half of them unhappy? Now you actually know something!”

In a redwood forest near San Francisco

In a redwood forest near San Francisco

As he told me about his own story, Eryc Branham, CRO at RocketSpace, an accelerator for tech startups, cautioned me not to expect the future to be linear. “I don’t believe in a career path,” he said. “I thought it would be a clear path but it was not.” You won’t necessarily figure out what you’re good at in your first job, he said, but you’ll learn about yourself. Eventually you will find your vocation. But your vocation isn’t necessarily a job or a career. It’s “the innate coherence that you bring to the world,” something you can bring to every job.

My last interview in the Bay Area was with Chi-Hua Chien, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Chi-Hua welcomed me warmly into his office, asking me about myself and what kinds of things excite me. In the end, I learned more about myself than about him: his discerning questions forced me to reflect on where I could see my passions, skills, and knowledge leading me in the future.

Even if I don’t land the “perfect job” straight out of college, I hope to take the advice I got and learn as much as I can, no matter what I end up doing. You can do good work in almost any job if you work hard and look for ways to learn and serve the world. And, happily for soon-to-be graduates like myself, you don’t have to know what that will look like straight out of college.

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Bicycle near Hattery

As Josh Kwan wrote in an email after our conversation: “Chase your dreams and don’t be afraid to run hard, run fast!”

Tala Strauss is a senior at Gordon College and a fellow at the Gordon College New Service. You can read a more extended article about these interviews on the website of Algumwood Consulting.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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