For most people, an advanced degree doesn’t make sense

Summary: For most people and most roles in most industries, an advanced degree doesn’t make sense. It is not as useful as “mastery through doing” in the real-world. There are only a few exceptions.

So you’re not sure exactly what you want to do next professionally? Maybe you’ve thought about getting an advanced degree, maybe a masters or PhD or JD. It seems like an advanced degree will help you both figure out what’s next and develop useful new skills while you’re at it. And you either have the financial circumstances to afford it or you’re thinking it’s sufficiently worth it to take out loans. Unfortunately, this conventional wisdom on advanced degrees is false, for most people in most fields. Continue reading

Some majors are valuable, most are just interesting

College seems to be set up oddly. On the one hand, it is advertised to society and to parents, both of whom pick up the tab, as the stepping stone to becoming a contributing member of society and to a rewarding (and well-paying) career.

But contrary to the advertising, the actual message and experience during college seems to place greatest importance on the process of learning how to think critically and eventually, after college, discovering your passion (by some undefined other process) to then finally arrive at a rewarding career and a valuable contribution to society. Continue reading

The 2 defining choices for your professional future

You spent 4 years in college in a major. And maybe you spent a couple more years getting an advanced degree. Or maybe you were one of the poor souls (like me!) who spent more years than you care to remember doing a PhD. Guess what? A few years into your professional future, no one will care what it was.[1] Really.

So what will matter the most? It turns out that there are 2 defining choices for your professional future. Continue reading

Want to be successful? Learn to help others.

What profession do you think has the largest share in the “One Percent”? Is Wall St or finance the first thing that comes to mind? That’s understandable, but incorrect.

Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you explicitly want to get rich. Maybe you want the financial flexibility to take more professional risks or to “earn to give” to charitable causes or just to take a stretch of time off with family.

The problem is that it’s hard to find reliable information on achieving financial success. Continue reading

There are only 4 types of roles in a company

In the last post, I described the 4 roles that were most common in the paths to becoming CEO of a S&P 500 company, namely marketing and sales, operations, engineering, and finance. I promised to dig into these roles and how they correspond to the 4 primary objectives of a business.[1]

It turns out, there’s surprising regularity in the types of roles across businesses meeting different needs. You may not guess it looking at either job boards or college majors. In many ways, businesses are like airplanes; they vary in details but need the same basic parts to fly. So what are these parts? Continue reading

The 4 paths for becoming CEO of a S&P 500 company

The S&P 500 represents a group of big companies across various industries meeting various needs and doing so at a large scale. The CEO of each company has a huge impact on the company’s direction and culture and as a result on the world it serves.

So how do you think the CEOs of these companies got to their current role? For example, what roles did they work in at any stage of their career? A bunch must have management consulting in there right? There’s the responsibility bump that a stint supposedly gets you. And banking must be on there of course? And what share of these CEOs went to Ivy league schools? Over 50%?

The answers will surprise you. Continue reading

The “hidden” industries that you should pay more attention to

In an earlier piece, I described business as “an organ of society” set up to fulfill a need which is significant enough that a group of people is willing to pay for it. I mentioned various examples in passing of products and services and the needs they fulfill: smartphones, robotic surgery, cars without tailpipe emissions, patient-centric health plans, and self-programming thermostats. In another piece, I explained why “what you read is mostly wrong” and promised to cover the more “hidden” industries systematically along with the needs they address. Continue reading