In recent days, I have been preparing career development materials for school children in Lithuania. The program is supported by the European Union and the grant was won by our Lithuanian colleagues at Versse Consulting whom we certified in SST®: Successful Selling to Type. The people at Versse were familiar with my academic background in career development1 and invited me to participate in the project. I am grateful for the opportunity.
We begin the program by debunking popular career myths, one of which is that career related decisions are irreversible. In looking to illustrate a career pattern with twists and turns I chose Steve Jobs. Like everyone, I was saddened by his passing earlier this week.
Many credit Steve Jobs with inventing the personal computer with Apple II. He was 21. While CEO of Apple he also developed the Macintosh which introduced Windows and the computer mouse. But, as he told it at a 2005 commencement ceremony, his career then took on unexpected ups and downs. Like many, I found his words inspiring:
“I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was twenty. We worked hard and in ten years, Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We’d just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I’d just turned thirty, and then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew, we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so, things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge, and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our board of directors sided with him, and so at thirty, I was out, and very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down, that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the Valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me. I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I’d been rejected but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life. During the next five years I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, “Toy Story,” and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.”
Steve Jobs, 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University
The world is a better place because Steve Jobs recognized that, after being fired by the company he founded, that he still loved what he did. He picked himself up, focused on those passions and went on to make even bigger and better contributions.
We will be asking students to reflect on their career passions and how to express them. It is a good question for everyone.
1 For my dissertation I researched career development in college students and helped develop a standardized career maturity assessment.