Lukas Püttmann    About    Research    Blog

Do as I did

When I was finishing school, I went to two career events 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.