This is a little tale of how I got to my dream job and what I learned in the process. This isn’t one of those dull “10 tips for your job interview” online crap articles. This is a personal anecdote. Can’t promise it’s not dull though. I will try to fit in almost 15 years of life in three pages. If you hang in there, I think you’ll have some benefit from my story at the end. Let us begin.
Steve Jobs once held a beautiful speech at a Harvard University graduation. The two key takeaways I got from that speech were this: One, “If you wake up 5 days in a row and don’t like what you need to do, get another job. Find something else to pursue”. Two, “Connecting the dots”.
We’ll begin with the latter, and come back to the former.
Connecting the dots…
First dot: “It ain’t much, but its honest work”
The last “real” job I had was half a life ago. I define “real” as “clocking the hours” work. You are paid to show up a number of hours to do a certain task. I was 14 years old and I was cleaning the dishes at the local butcher’s shop like there was no tomorrow.
It was hard work and looking back at it, I was making pennies, but I have never felt richer. I was making my own money for the first time! A whole DKK 53 an hour and I was damned proud of it. The theory of relativity holds true.
My second job was at a local XL-byg. My pay increased to DKK 57 an hour and I calculated that those four extra DKK would make me a millionaire 377 years after I die.
Second dot: “Universal Serial Bullsh*t”
Then came high school. I met a dude who I teamed up with and we imported quality USB sticks from China. Our margins were super low, we were selling little to none, the website was rubbish and it took just one return in twenty-eight sales, for us to lose money and lose money we did. But I had my little daily wins.
Every time the notification would come that a sale came in, and I had to skip class and peddle my bike home as quick as possible to get the certain model of USB, put it in an envelope, bike down to the post office just before closing time so we could maintain our day-to-day delivery record – those were the days my friend. I felt a kick each time, as I have not felt since.
I would make about DKK 20 on each USB, and once again, felt the richest I ever did.
Anyway, the business failed. For multiple reasons. It’s funny how it is when something works out – you can barely explain why it did. But when it fails, oh boy, everyone has so many great reasons to list. This sad blogger included.
Here they are:
1. Turns out people do not care for polished aluminum high-end USB sticks with Swarovski crystals on them. They just want the cheapest ones.
2. We cannot compete with the Bilkas and the Powers of the world on price.
3. Dropbox and other cloud-storage software came along, which made USBs redundant.
4. Most importantly, my partner was a walking phallus.
Zarko 0 – 1 Business world. They had us at the first half, ain’t gonna lie. But what it did was ignite a fire. I was going to be successful with my own startup. I needed to be. I needed to even the score.
Third dot: “You write notes, kid?”
Fast forward a few years, I am now at university. First semester. I could have sworn I told myself “When I get to uni’, I’ll be a grown up, and have better habits. I won’t procrastinate about my studying until the evening before the deadline”. I was wrong. Not only was Rome not built in a day, it turns out Rome never changes.
First exam comes up. Three days to go. I realize I can’t read 500 pages of law and understand it in the time remaining. I am trying not to panic. I am panicking.
Then, like all great ideas created under pressure, this one came to me and hit me like a Tyson-left hook. Knocked me straight off my feet and into the lap of my friend Selma. “Selma, please give me your class notes.” “Go f*ck yourself.” Why do I get the vibe that she is not exactly enthusiastic about sharing two months of seat-warming reading with, albeit charming, Zarko in need? I must try harder. She was a shrewd negotiator and we ended up meeting in the middle with 10 minutes of shoulder massage per chapter.
The book had 14 chapters. I was also to bring cake and coffee. She could have asked me for the rights to my firstborn, I would have accepted. So the joke’s on her. I get the notes, pass the exam with even a great result, and I start uninets.dk, a site where university students can buy and sell notes.
The site takes off and all of a sudden, I find myself managing eight interns and four employees. What a time. What great pressure. Sadly, what great greed. The partners and I go our own ways, as we do not agree on the financials. So I persevered on my own. Hired some new developers from Belgrade, where I am from. Great guys that did amazing work, and yet substantially less expensive than what I could find here.
I needed inexpensive because at around that time, I had invested in Smartguy stocks – a company that I am still convinced ran a pump-and-dump scheme that day and got away with it. I lost all of my savings in about 23 minutes. Rock bottom is a good foundation to build on. Let’s go again.
Fourth dot: “Wanna buy some hours?”
Turns out many other entrepreneurs that I got drunk with could use that same previously mentioned inexpensive Belgrade talent. Therefore, I started another company, outsourcing web-development needs. I was the project leader, the intermediary, the salesclerk, the designer, the coffeemaker.
It was fun until it wasn’t. I came to realize I was just doing it for money. I had made a few bucks but was still an insecure, shy guy who had no answers to any of the big questions. The motorbikes I had craved when I was younger but couldn’t ever afford, I now had, but they mostly just collected dust in the garage waiting for me to find the time to ride them. I rarely ever did.
“If you wake up 5 days in a row…”
It was time for a change.
Fifth dot: “Diamants are forever”
I ran into an old friend of mine. He had heard of Uninets, and all the other projects I had done. I had heard of his work too. He has a company, FAAST ApS, which does projects for municipalities that want to help young people and otherwise socially excluded people get back on track. I love every word of that.
I decide to volunteer in “Udkantsguldet” – a project for school kids that would help them get better grades and make it to high school. I was once that super shy kid that got bad grades because I never said anything. I would have loved a project like that then. This was my chance to be that change for someone else.
I did it. I loved it. I made partner in the company. Suddenly, going to work felt like anything but work. It felt empowering. I wasn’t tired when I got home after a long day. I was recharged. I had never experienced anything like it. We created more projects. Helped a bunch of people with all different needs. One of those projects became a medical research project in collaboration with Steno Diabetes Center Sjælland. The project, called “Diamant”, is helping kids with type 1 diabetes get healthier.
All of this was happening while I was studying for my masters at CBS. I wrote my thesis on diabetes technology – an economic and regulative perspective. I got impressive results for it. I learned so much about health data and software as medical equipment.
I had found it – my purpose. I want to help as many people as possible to live healthier lives as long as I live.
Final dot: For now…
An opportunity presented itself at the before-mentioned Steno Centre. They loved my CV and my thesis work. I could pursue this as a career, dedicate all my working hours to diabetes research, and lead the region in digitalization concerning tele-medicine and digital medical equipment that will not only prolong the lives of diabetics, but also make it an easier life while they are at it. I said yes!
Fast forward to today – I wake up each day with a feeling that my work makes someone I have never met a happier and healthier person. It truly is my dream job.
I am the only Master of Science in Business Administration and Commercial Laws in the whole workforce. I am surrounded by medical specialists, doctors, PhDs, and then there is me – the guy who would barely pass some courses, got creative to pass others, and pissed of pretty much every teacher of mine along the way.
The proof is in the pudding. Chase that purpose and it will lead you to success, fulfillment and happiness. Chase monetary values and it will lead you to anything but that.
Final thoughts on purpose
The key takeaway from this is what Steve Jobs talked about: When you go through life, it’s hard to see if what you are doing is leading anywhere. But have faith in the process. No matter the valley you find yourself in now, one day you will be strolling along that yellow brick road with the white horses and pretty ladies and you will look back on the journey and connect all the dots. “Because I did X, it led me to Y… which led me to Z.”
I am convinced that the ‘dots’ I described here all led me in this direction to be where I am today. Through the cleaning dishes job, to the numerous failed businesses, trial and error, first success story, losing all my money… twice. All of it. However, most importantly – the big shift in the right direction came when I started searching for meaning and purpose. I found that “Udkantsguldet” project, that just spoke to me, and I volunteered to help with it. I spoke to over 250 kids and found what I really craved.
This ain’t no finish line talk though. We all evolve until we kick the bucket. Who knows where this current dot, this chapter you are at now, will lead in the future? Nevertheless, one thing I am sure of – my internal compass to say yes or no to jobs in the future will be based solely on whether or not I see purpose in it.
“If you look at anything in life through the framework of money, you will miss most of the picture.”
I wish someone had told me that when I was younger. I hope the message gets to you sexy readers.
Final tips to land that dream job of yours
Work while you study. Go volunteer. Do internships. Start a business. Start an organization. A club for lunatics like you. Go party. Mingle with folks of all backgrounds and life stories. Learn. Grow. Evolve. Work hard. Go on a bunch of dates. Learn to appreciate loyalty. Do not study too much. Go live a little… And for God’s sake, don’t go gentle into that good night.