Being Different and Finding Your Career Groove

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

I love this quote and often use it to keep things in perspective, especially careers.

When reading professional biographies and interviewing job candidates, it often seems as if careers are a linear process. However, as I grow older, while it is true that some people enjoy careers that are truly linear, I am coming to appreciate that careers are more like a journey with a rough destination in mind. Individuals are constantly striving to reach their long term career goal, while having fun (however you define it) and picking up pieces of knowledge at each stop along the way to help them do so.

Since I was 20, I knew my long term career goal was to be an investor, yet I also knew that to be a truly great investor requires being different than the crowd. Being different lets you operate on the fringe, which I believe is critical in business, especially investing. Recognizing this, I have focused each step of my career on building a diverse range of differentiated experiences, each deliberately selected to build two key mussels: stock picking and learning the broadest version of the Wall Street game.

To do so has required turning over as many stones as possible, constantly learning. I took internships and jobs as a stock broker, tax accountant, public auditor, valuation expert, early-stage venture capitalist, investment banker, late-stage venture investor and venture fund investor. Each role provided a unique set of skills, industry insights and relationships. It is amazing how much reality differs from what you read and hear. Textbooks make things seem so straightforward, and to be sure there are fundamental truths that apply in finance, but it is only firsthand experiences that teach you about the gray areas that matter. This is the crucial learning required to be different from your competitors and why, I believe, a journeyman approach is beneficial.

So my advice, in addition to reading books and constantly speaking with the smartest people you can, is to not be afraid to take a journeyman approach to your career. Because remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And constantly mixing it up is both fun and enriching.