When I talk to people about their career plans, I hear a wide variety of responses, from starting off in banking, to teaching, to going to medical school. However, there is one common denominator amongst all of the responses -- everyone wants to make an impact at some point of their career.
For aspiring doctors or lawyers, there's no choice but to put in the extra years at school. For individuals with pro-social aspirations, they can jump right in by joining a non-profit or teaching right out of college with Teach for America.
Yet the business minded people I ask have no clear path to impact. Many of them default to the status quo -- working in big organizations, whether it is a bank, a consulting firm or a Fortune-500 company. While these are places of employment that your mother would be proud to share with her friends, there can be an extremely limited ability to have a unique impact. Students dive in regardless; they listen to what elders tell them -- that that they don't yet have the skills or experience to make an impact in the business world. Instead, they think of their first job as "just a first job" -- a means to an end.
I used to believe I needed some grooming, spending last summer working at an investment bank so I could eventually make a difference. After three months on Wall Street, I realized that I wasn't content with waiting.
Fortunately, my impatience paid off. Three months ago, I joined BoostUp, an early stage startup based in Detroit, as part of my Venture for America fellowship, and it's my first full-time job. The biggest takeaway I have thus far is that you don't need as much experience as you think to make a large impact.
I joined BoostUp as one of the first employees. I didn't get to negotiate my role, ease into things, or learn the ropes. On my very first day, I received 30 minutes of training before being thrown into a discussion about our new company name. In the following weeks, I had a significant impact on our product roadmap, marketing strategy, brand identity and every other element of the business.
I was initially very uncomfortable with being a recent college graduate and having this kind of influence on the shape of our company. However, I didn't have a choice, and I soon began running with the opportunity. So how can a recent grad like me have this kind of impact?
Do I have extensive experience working with early stage startups? No.
Am I some prodigy? Far from it. Just ask my parents about my old report cards.
Was I fully prepared for the role that I was given? Nope.
The truth is, it's not that hard. When you don't have a choice but to perform certain tasks that are mission critical to a startup's progress, you can figure out how to do them. Almost all of the tasks I now perform on a daily basis are things I had no experience with prior to starting my job. However, learning by doing is by far the fastest way to learn, and as a result, I've learned more in the past three months than I have in the past three years.
Not only has this dive into the startup world had a significant impact on my own growth and skillset, it's enabled me to have a much larger impact than I could have imagined.
The impact I'm able to have on our company BoostUp, is great, but that alone is not completely fulfilling. The real fulfillment comes from being able to impact the lives of our users by providing our service, the lives of our new team members as they become passionate about our mission and our community in Detroit as we create more jobs.
Getting this kind of fulfillment out of work has created a strong emotional connection for me with my job. I'm ecstatic when things go well, and I'm angry when things go wrong, but I love every second of it.
I'm having a large impact, learning more than I can imagine, and I love my job. And this is all because I was too impatient to wait to have an impact and because Venture for America provided me with an unbelievable opportunity.
The main lesson this has taught me is if you want to have an impact, just dive right in. You'll be rewarded.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Venture for America, in conjunction with the Venture for America Innovation Fund. Right now, seven teams of VFA Fellows are competing for access to $20,000 to get projects off the ground and make an impact in in Detroit, Providence, Cincinnati and New Orleans. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about Venture for America, click here.