Be intentional in how you cultivate your credibility.
Your credibility will determine where you end up. If you want to be a programmer, program. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, start a business.
You only build credibility through creating. Badges of competence, conscientiousness, and conformity are not enough.
Learn and build intentionally. Optimize for your credibility.
The traditional path to credibility is to get an education. Performing well in school signals a few things:
- You’re conscientious
- You conform to expectations
- You perform well on tests
When thinking about what I want to do in my life, conscientiousness will play a significant role. But conforming and performing well on tests? Not so much.
So, instead of looking to school to signal that I am conscientious, I’ve done it elsewhere.
While applying for an internship at a startup, I never sent my transcript. I never reported my GPA. The founder clearly wanted someone who would reliably put in the work and would be daring. I provided evidence for both.
- For conscientiousness, I sent him my blog. I’ve been posting every other day for almost 5 months now. It’s been a self-motivated process. No one except myself expects me to publish every other day. That shows more conscientiousness than most of the population has.
- For thinking outside the box, my previous projects spoke for myself. But I also showed it in the way I communicated with him. While most people go to Handshake, LinkedIn, etc. to apply for internships, I sent him a cold email offering him my services.
I also had expertise in the area — not because I studied to be an expert but because I was interested in it. I didn't really plan this – I simply found a job that matched who I was.
When thinking about how to spend your experience as a young adult, think about what you want to do. So many people want to do something big but spend their young adult years building credibility for their backup plan. This is wrong. Decide today to start building credibility for your main plan. Because at the end of the day, your credibility is all you have. If you build it for your backup plan, you'll end up in your backup plan. But if you build it for your main plan? You'll be heading to where you always dreamed.