When I heard about the book, 52 Cups of Coffee by Megan Gebhart, the first thing that came to my mind was: That’s Exactly What I Do.
For those who are unfamiliar, in her book 52 Cups of Coffee, Megan
explores the insights she gathered from over a year of learning from
strangers. Each week that year, Megan had at least one cup of coffee
with a person she didn’t know.
I have spent my business school career discovering what I want to do when I grow up. After
discovering that where I did my summer internship was not the right
fit, I went back to the drawing board. And this time, I committed to
doing an extremely thorough search. I know there are worlds of
opportunities that I haven’t discovered yet and I didn’t want to leave
any stone unturned.
So I signed up for LinkedIn Premium and got to inMail-ing. If I
thought your background, current job and/or story was interesting I
wanted to talk to you. I set up coffee chat after coffee chat learning
stories about people at Google.org to Safeway to LeapFrog to The Westly
In total, I’ve had 55 coffee chats in over 7 months.
My biggest takeaways?
You Will Have More than 1 Dream Company
Have you ever taken the Myers Briggs test? Well I am an isfj with a
capital F. I don’t do anything if it doesn’t feel just right. So for me,
joining a company that I believe in is absolutely paramount. Through my
coffee chats, I discovered that I am passionate about the opportunity
to impact the next generation of businesses through joining a venture
capital (VC) firm.
When I first explored this space, I thought this was a very small
community so I shouldn’t get too excited about a real chance to work at a
real VC. Not true. Once I began talking with people, I discovered that
every “dream company” of mine, had a sister I didn’t know about. From
The Westly Group, I learned about Collaborative Fund. From Collaborative
Fund, I learned about First Round Capital. From First Round Capital, I
learned about Omidyar Network. The list goes on.
What I’m trying to say to career and job switchers out there is: find
a company you believe in. Connect with people who work there. If you
fall in love with it, awesome. If you get a job there, perfect. If you
don’t, use that passion and those connections to continue to explore
other companies that are doing similar work — there are more options
than you know!
There’s No Right Way of Doing Things
To be fair, I have been told this for years. But then I got to
b-school and was told there is a rule book for everything. My first
dream job was to get into the mission-driven Consumer Packaged Goods
(CPG) space. So I was told, if you want to go into the mission-driven
CPG space, first intern at an established CPG as an Assistant Brand
Manager Intern, then once you get the offer stay in that company until
you at least make Brand Manager (but no longer than 5 years), then
consider exploring mission-driven CPGs.
I didn’t like these rules so I decided to find alternative ways of getting the same result.
And luckily for me, the world of work is changing. Some of the people
I talked with had fallen into their line of work by accident and it was
only once they got there that they realized they loved it. Others
followed a traditional path for 20+ years until their dream job in a
different career finally opened up. Then there were the few idealists
who (shocker) sounded a little more like me. They had an idea — that
seemed to others a bit wacky and unrealistic — pursued it fearlessly and
The one commonality? All of them ended up where they wanted to be.
Sometimes You Just Won’t Click — And That’s Ok
Throughout this journey, I had plenty of conversations that didn’t go so great.
In these scenarios it was always one of two things. 1) I was
distracted and didn’t come prepared enough. Or 2) The person I was
talking with was really busy and/or not that interested in talking with
I tried my hardest to make #1 extremely a rare occurrence.
Unfortunately #2 was more frequent. However, neither 1 or 2 ever
happened when I met with the person face-to-face. It’s so much easier to
build an authentic connection with whoever you’re talking to when
you’re meeting in person.
But I also learned to become ok with the fact that sometimes I just
didn’t connect. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that
not everyone is going to like you. But you need to like yourself. So be
authentic every time you show up.