Sometimes, I am just blown away by who people are. I share with you here a letter from a fellow member of the Kappa Alpha Society (not the Order, of recent ill repute):
I hope your summer has been going brilliantly. I have finished my internship in India working with drones and am back in the USA. I am proud to say I learned a lot and am very excited to see what my field holds for me in the future. I am now trying to figure out what my immediate plan is post graduation. I am debating between a master's, a job, or having my own startup. I eventually would like to have my own startup, a drone services firm, but I understand the amount of work that it takes. I am a passionate and actionable person, so I think this is a viable option for me soon.
I am very interested in University of Pennsylvania's Masters of Urban Spatial Analysis, and was wondering if you had any advice for me to have a leg up in this admissions process.
As for jobs, the firms you shared with me are both very exciting, and to work with either of them would be a very good fit for me. I also wanted to know if you had any contacts at . . . ?
These are my ideas, and any thoughts would be appreciated.
I think you are missing something huge here, and that is that you are a gift to these companies. Your energy, your desire, your interest, your love for this field are apparent.
Most companies are desperate for qualified people. They advertise a position (they hate to do that), and hundreds of people apply that think they can do anything that is within a hundred miles of the work. The company reluctantly sifts through resumes to find the few that will take the least training to be acceptable for their purposes, and will have to waste time training, and then be left wondering if this person is going to split when the thing he really wants comes along.
And now you come along, and give them the chance to avoid all this initial pain. You are the Gift. You have to get that.
As to the startup, it is a tough road to travel, but can have great upsides as well. But here's the thing, you can bring a startup mentality to your job (I've heard it called Entreployee and Intrapreneur), and create unlimited pathways to growth within a job.
The other benefit of having a job is making your mistakes on someone else's dime, and having colleagues who can support you. A mentor is a fine thing to have, and you might be better able to find and interact with one when you work for someone else.
As I think about it, you might even want to choose your job based on the mentor-ship and community that will be available. This is the community that will be yours for the rest of your career; so you might as well start with the best. They say that a big chunk of Silicon Valley came out of the startup that was PayPal.
That said, a master's might also make sense. But again, why do it on your own dime? Why not find a job in the Philly area doing the work you love, and have your employer sponsor your master's. I don't know how viable this is, but it could be a good fit if you can balance the demands of the two. You could do your research in an area with direct applicability to your work. But even to this, you could bring the Intrapreneur mindset. Get on a project with your adviser that will feed into the network I suggest below. Then take it with you.
What's clear, to me at least, is that you should not wait for job openings to apply to the companies that interest you. You should get clear on your unique value proposition, and let them know you are available. You should also talk to as many people in these companies as you can, after you've done as much research as you can, and get their pain points, and what you could do to alleviate them.
If you do it right, you could even make a business of being the connector in your industry as you start to go deep in these companies. For instance, as you are talking to one and get his pain, you might be talking to another and get his solution. Then you start the Spatial Analysis newsletter to share ideas. You get on their radar every two weeks with another interesting article (it doesn't have to be one you wrote), you let them know you are there to field their questions and find answers, and you become the go to guy in the field. You bring on a few other experts to contribute, and soon you are the Huffington Post of Spatial Analysis, bringing in the planning people, the equipment people, the software people, the other disciplines that integrate with yours.
It's just an idea. Right now, it looks like you are coming from a conversation of scarcity, when there is an abundance of possibility around you. I've written about it elsewhere, and it's not my idea anyway, but your path forward would be well served if you become an idea machine. See my friend James Altucher for more on this. And you don't have to buy his stuff to get a ton of value. I particularly love his weekly podcast.
So I don't know folks at . . . . The fact that I know anyone close to this industry is a fluke, but hey, there are a lot of flukes out there, and if you just reach out a little more, you'll probably find you are connected in many more ways than you could imagine.
And if you are ready to go to work on this now, I invite you to: