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A Theory of Recruitment

Money is a very expensive and transient way to acquire happiness.

Hugh MacLeod

As an MBA2, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from MBA1s about “how can I get hired at company X?” or “how can I tailor my resume to improve my chances of getting a job at company Y?”

These are the wrong questions.

What do you want to do with your life and why?

That’s the question to ask. Answer that question and all the other questions find answers too. But that’s a hard question, and one whose answer is different for each person. Yet the difficulty is worth the effort. Instead of contorting yourself to try to fit some preconceived notion of a cookie-cutter of what company Z wants, be true to yourself and find your vocation, not just a job.

But to be true to yourself, you have to know yourself first. Thus the question.

If you do work that you love, you’ll do better work. If you pour your heart into your job, your job — and life — will be better. It won’t feel like work. That doesn’t mean there won’t be grindy parts that suck — every job has that. But that does mean there will be autotelic self-reinforcing intrinsic rewards that will make getting through those grindy parts easier, because you’ll have something authentic that you’re aspiring towards.

And then, how to approach recruitment with this perspective? It’s a two-way street — you are interviewing companies just as much as they are interviewing you. Are they a fit for your approach to problem-solving? Do they make the world a better place in a way that you’d like to be a part of? Can you see yourself working side-by-side with your interviewer one day? Do people care about each other, and about the products and services the company makes, and not just about revenue?

At this point MBA1s usually look at me with wide-eyes and a worried look. I reassure them — they are smart, they work hard, they will find remunerative employment. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is finding a job, a career, a vocation that will offer more than just monetary rewards. Money, while it has its uses, is transient and has steeply diminishing marginal rewards. Love can’t be bought.

It’s worth the extra effort to take the time in business school to engage in self-discovery and figure out who you are, and what it is you actually want out of this thing we call life. There are maybe, in a good run, a mere 50 to 60 years left. That’s not much. Which path will you follow? Where do you see yourself in 30 years? You’ll probably have a comfortable income no matter what you choose.

But will you be happy?