Recently I have been in quite a few job interviews as my plan is to do a 6-month internship during the spring of 2023. Interviewing can be really hard. You don't know what questions they are going to ask and you have to showcase your best sides to strangers you have never met. Doing multiple of them has been helpful though and it is like most things where practice makes it easier. During these interviews, I have often gotten the question about where I see myself in 5 years and what kind of career I want. I believe this is a hard question.
Throughout my life, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what career to pursue in life and I am still not entirely sure. Often you hear that you should follow your passion which is vague advice, I have written more about my thoughts on that in this blog post. Choosing a career can be an important choice. On average people will spend around 80,000 hours on their job. Yes, you read that correctly. That is a crazy amount of time! This stat comes from the organization 80,000 hours a non-profit trying to help people have careers with positive impact. Spending that much time doing something means at least for me it is important to find something I somewhat enjoy.
Thus far I have come to the realization that one of the most important factors to enjoy your work is the people you work with. You will be spending almost 40 hours per week with these people and they will most likely be the ones you see the most outside your family. Working with interesting people you like will make any job better.
For a long time, I thought I would find a passion that I fell in love with and wanted to work with, but I have realized that for most people that is not how it happens. Instead one has to go out and try different things and keep doing the things one like while discarding the things one dislikes. This does not mean you will love all the tasks all the time instead it means that you like working towards the goal. Remember what Paul Graham said:
You have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure.
This way you will have the ability to do a lot of work without getting distracted. To help you on finding things you Dr. Atul Gawande gave some good tips on Adam Grant's podcast, he said the best advice he had received was:
Just say yes until you’re 40, and after 40, just say no.
Dr. Gawande explains it by saying "When you’re young, you don’t know what actually energizes you and what you will prove to be good at. You don’t have a sample size to know". He continues to explain that it is important to try new things and increase the sample size and then sort through the activities you try. To explain this he says: "And so I just started saying yes to stuff. And then I paid attention to the things that actually energized me.".
Dr. Gawande's statements spoke to me as I believe it is important to say yes and try new stuff. You won't know if you like something until you have tried it. Then you can shape your life around things that give you energy. These things often sound easy when you read them but can still feel hard to apply. My biggest tip is to just try and say yes more often. Saying yes does not necessarily have to mean you literally saying the words, instead, it can mean reaching out to someone you met asking them to hang out, or trying rock climbing because you watched Free Solo with Alex Honnold. Go out there and start exploring!
I have not managed to finish a book since last week so I am going to recommend one of my favorite books. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts. I read this book for the first time before going backpacking in Southeast Asia back in 2017. Rolf Potts is a travel journalist who has written for many travel publications and has traveled around the world. This book showcases his love for long-term travel.
If you have ever done any form of long-term traveling you will recognize many of the feelings he describes in the book and if you have not the book will get you excited to travel. The book is full of learnings and quotes from famous travelers and poets as well as stories of people who have traveled this way. For me, the book was a celebration of travel and cultural exchange around the world. The book gives you the tools to have a fantastic time traveling but also embracing the traveler's mindset at home, making it easier to appreciate your everyday environment.
I am going to recommend Matthew Walker's appearance on The Peter Attia Drive, the episode link can be found here. Peter Attia is a doctor who has a podcast focusing on health, longevity, and performance. Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley and an expert on sleep. This three-part podcast explained the importance of sleep to me. Of course, I knew that sleep was important but not how essential it was to a healthy life. Listening to this podcast and then reading Matthew's excellent book Why We Sleep really drove the point home for me. This does not mean I sleep optimally every night, but I make a bigger effort too, and now the price I will pay for not sleeping enough. You can read my longer review of the book here.
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you have read this far you might be wondering what I answer to the question of what I want my career to look like. I find it easiest, to tell the truth. I am not entirely sure where I want to work, but I want to work at a place where I am challenged to grow, learn new things, and have the opportunity to work with interesting and kind people. This answer has been well received. I have now accepted an internship at Georg Fischer in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and I will begin working on the 1st of February 2023.
Have a great week and I hope to see you next Sunday!