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Monday, October 28, 2013

Ivy League Reflections on the Career Decision

Cal Newport is a Dartmouth College alumnus who blogs at Study Hacks, Decoding Patterns of Success. He asks why Ivy League schools send such a huge percentage of graduates into investment banking and management consulting. He also offers a new way to look at career choices.

Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

Labor: How Will I Make a Living?

Ivy League Reflections on the Career Decision

By Evan Nehring

Ivy League Reflections

Cal Newport is a Dartmouth College alumnus who blogs at Study Hacks, Decoding Patterns of Success. He asks why Ivy League schools send such a huge percentage of graduates into investment banking and management consulting.

…elite students assume their choices are limited to: (a) making lots of money in finance and consulting, or (b) saving the world by working for a boots-on-the-ground non-profit. [1]

Photo Credit: ZhaoAngela on Flickr Creative Commons
Le Penseur (The Thinker) at Columbia University

Newport calls for a deeper vocabulary of career aspiration. We’ll be interacting with his three career conversation cues.

The Value of Craftsmanship. There’s a deep sense of satisfaction in the process of mastering a craft that produces things that the world values.

In the next chapter I’ll be observing the path from servant to apprentice to journeyman to master. Much regret at the end of one’s career flows from journeying short on the road of craftsmanship. We won’t all be masters, but all of us can take pleasure in being more masterful.

The Importance of Lifestyle. What traits define, to you, a good life? Autonomy? Time affluence? Mobility and adventure? Connection? Influence? Impact? Students tend to place too much importance on the specifics of a job, as if there was a specific knowledge work pursuit hardwired in their genes. It is instead the general traits of their lifestyle that tend to bring people satisfaction — not specific jobs. How deeply do you understand what general traits resonate with you? This understanding brings great clarity to your path through the working world.

We'll be looking at A-LIST jobs. These are jobs that resonate with your abilities, location, interaction (small shop or big business), structure (Who decides how I spend my day?), and tension (work-life balance). Think about it: if you could nail those five factors, you could be happy in a number of careers.

A Personal Ethic. Identifying your core values is important. But equally important is translating these values into an actionable ethic.

From start to finish, we are moving from Christ-centered core values to a lifetime of devotion to the eternal purposes of God. While this entire book is about these things, the final section is designed to close the deal on investing our lives into God’s kingdom purposes.

I remember this wonderful moment of freedom in Brandon riding my 12 speed up and down the curbs from street to sidewalk and sidewalk to street with this overwhelming sense of freedom and hopefulness. I told myself over and over again, “I'm nineteen!” It seems that the wave of all of my adult decisions had gotten pretty heavy and just riding my bike and being nineteen was the best thing in the world.

My prayer is that God will help you keep that spirit of freedom and hopefulness as you work through the career decision.


Craftsmanship, lifestyle, and a personal ethic. Is Cal onto something? Do you think the career conversation has been too narrow? Too shallow?

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[1] Cal Newport. Why Did Most of Dartmouth’s Valedictorians Become Investment Bankers and Consultants? The Need for a Deeper Vocabulary of Career Aspiration., accessed August 19, 2013.         


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