What factors should I consider when choosing careers?

As you get ready to graduate from MIT, you will face a variety of career choices. You can:

  • Go to graduate school 
  • Get a job at a VC backedstartup
  • Get a job at an established company with its own product lines or platforms (e.g. Google, Amazon, Bose)
  • Get a job at a consulting company (e.g. McKinsey)
  • Get a job as a researcher in an academic institution or corporate research center
  • Join a university as a tenure track professor
  • Start a startup
  • Start a consulting business
  • Go into a non-profit
  • Take time off and teach English in another country
  • Become a ski bum
  • ... etc

With such a wide array of choices, how do you frame the question so you can think about your options in a structured way?  One idea is to think about the parameters that will matter to you now and in 2 years, and come up with a force-ranked list that clarifies your own priorities to yourself.   Here are some example parameters to get you started.

  • Sector - which industry vertical will you feel passionate about in 2 years and beyond? Why?
  • Target customers/users - what constituency do you want to serve, and why?
  • Team - what would you like to look back and see relative to the team you will have been part of?
  • Technology - how much proprietary intellectual property do you see yourself generating in the next 2 years?  Is this important to you?
  • Economic success - what level of financial compensation would you realistically consider successful in 2 years?
  • Work content - what do you like to do? What don't you like to do? What type of role does that map to in different types of organizations?
  • Control and ownership - how much control do you want /need?
  • Work/life balance - what are your expectations on how much time/effort you will spend at work versus outside of work?  What about expectations on schedule flexibility?
  • ... etc

This is just an example list, and the factors that matter to one person are not always the same as those that matter to another.  By being deliberate and choiceful about listing these factors, defining them to an adequate level of detail and then force ranking them, you will have a much better framework to think about all the options open to you in the abstract, and it will help you assess and gauge actual opportunities when they do present themselves to you in the form of an offer or a co-founding opportunity.




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