Do as I did
When I was finishing school, I went to two career events by the local Lions Club and Rotary Club in my town. In both, a group of stately men sat at tables scattered around the room and we went from table to table and asked them about their professions.
One of them was a former manager and had just started an executive search firm. One was an economist and senior member of the Bundesbank. One was a lawyer working as a lobbyist at the European institutions in Brussels. One was a computer scientist working as management consultant. Several others were business executives.
And they all said variations of the same: “Do as I did.”
“Computer science is the best way to learn how to think in a procedural way.”
“If you want a good career with a 100,000 euro starting salary, you have to study law.”
“Only studying economics can teach you where phenomena like inflation come from.”
“I was the president of the student organization in Berkeley and that was very important in my career. These extra-curricular activities are very valuable.”
The only types that didn’t say this were the people who had studied business and management. Instead they said:
“You could also study something like aeronautic engineering.”
“You could backpack around Asia.”
A lot of the advice is good, but the most important thing I learned was this: There’s a limit on the breadth of career advice somebody is able to give, as most people can only really pass judgment on the decisions they themselves made. They post-rationalize their choices and try to get you to follow the same path.