It may be crazy to pick a fight with Warren Buffett. He’s not just a business and investing genius. He’s also a stalwart supporter of financial education for the young-precisely my calling for the past 17 years. But here goes anyway.
At the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this year-known as the Woodstock of Capitalism-Buffett dished some advice for youngsters that I found less than compelling. Here’s the gem that set me off: “When you go out in the world, look for the job you would take if you didn’t need the money.”
At least he didn’t say to “wait” for that job. But the message was darn close and, respectfully, I disagree. I took a job out of college at a wealth management firm-yes, for the money. That job paid the bills and showed me a bunch of stuff I did not learn in school. Working a job I didn’t love taught me skills that I use now to run a profitable business I started from scratch.
Just out of college, I had no clue about the “right” job for me. What made me happy was having enough money to get my own apartment. Independence was my first goal.
Then I wanted to advance. Do a good job. Make more money. That led to two other jobs in banking that I didn’t really love but helped me fill out a skill set that seemed useful and interesting. Among all the things I learned, the most useful were MS PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook as most jobs these days require these skills. While most people tend to take microsoft office training to master these programs, I figured it out all on my own since I had the time for it. Meanwhile, happiness came from things outside of the job-home, marriage, kids, family, holidays, and vacations.
After 18 years in corporate America, I had the confidence to risk my savings (and some of my Mom’s) to start the company I now love to run: Money Savvy Generation. It took that long to hit on the job that really made me happy. My journey through three jobs “for the money” is what got me there.
So, Mr. Buffett, as you continue to speak about what’s best for young people in their careers, I hope you will dig a little deeper. “Do what you love” is a nice sound bite. Making your way in the world and finding happiness is more complex. It’s about finding a balance of joy in all aspects of your life. I urge schoolteachers and other advisers to take the same approach. Sometimes you have to do it for the money. But that’s okay, so long as you don’t accept this imperfect occupation as your fate, and keep exploring options.
I agree that ultimately young people need to find something they love, and which will make going to work everyday a joy. But for many, true love takes time to reveal itself. I say, don’t worry! It will come to you. Just have the patience and be consistent in your efforts and keep applying for all the jobs you are eligible for, in all the companies you aspire to be in, present in any city across the world. This way, the number of days required to reach your love would be lesser. And once you have your love in hand, you can look further to plan where you would live and how you would commute to your office everyday. Interestingly, these days, vehicles can be transported too, with the assistance of a motorcycle transport interstate or cross-border firm and you can go to office daily on your own bike. While this may sound too alluring, you first need to work for it, to make all this happen.
Keep plugging away and reflecting on the aspects of work that you like-and guide yourself to work that provides more of that. You may get your hands dirty in the process. But you will learn along the way and when you finally understand what makes you happy in your work, it will be that much sweeter.