Last night I went to an event organised by Melbourne Business School. I joined their mentoring team this year, and attended a plush session of ‘facilitated networking’ with other mentors and mentees. It was intended as an opportunity for students to learn and ask questions, and practice their ‘networking skills’.
Mentors were assigned to a cocktail table, and stood there, while students rotated for ten minutes at a time. After the third rotation, I started asking the students what their key learning was from that evening. Many spoke of tips about interviews or CVs. I then came up with a question that I systematically started asking everyone: ‘after graduating, do you want to get a job, or start a business.’ Just to get them thinking.
Interestingly, most of them said they thought of starting a business, but wanted to get a job first. To gain experience, they said. I didn’t let it stand and, very soon, a keyword kept appearing: fear. Starting a business was scary,getting a job seemed safer. So we spoke about fear.
I realised for most of them, it seemed to be a novel thought – that the main block to your carrier may not be the lack of a skill or the wrong choice of major, but an emotion holding you back. And that they could – and maybe should – address this emotion as such. In other words, that the solution to fear is not learning how to write a better CV.
I suggested exotic methods, self observation, stepping straight into a cold shower, watching horror movies. They giggled, but I think their thinking shifted, even if ever so slightly.
Not all of them. One resisted. They were not going to start a business. They studied economics, and had it all figured out. Their problem was a choice of major – the bankers in the room said so. They majored in economics, they should have picked accounting. From their knowledge of economics, they knew that we were in for a bad turn. And so their goal was clear – land the job, and save their ass. That was also one of the only white guys in the room. Surely they won’t be stepping straight into a cold shower, watch horror movies, or self-observe today.