The Unicorn Farm Is Not Hiring

After a talk, several years back, a bright new college grad asked me for advice on how to select her “dream job” from the two job offers in front of her. First, I was happy she had choices. Good news for the 1.9 million students who graduated in the Class of 2016 – it was the hottest hiring market in years. According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 5 percent more graduates landed a job year over year. Now, that’s still wasn’t a good job market, but it was better than the previous year.

Though the young woman asking for career advice was glad she had a job (no moving back in with her parents!), and had clearly worked hard in school, she was concerned the choices in front of her weren’t all that she had hoped for after graduating with a degree. Why? One option was in her chosen field, but the position was, well- “too entry level”. It would involve more grunt work than she was hoping for and she felt capable of more. The other job offer would involve traveling to less than glamorous places, working long hours doing challenging thought work that she felt unsure about. One could be too boring, the other could be too challenging. Which to choose?

“Shouldn’t I wait and find a job that I am really passionate about? That is the first P you outline in the 6 Ps of the entrepreneurial spirit, right? Isn’t that what Find Your Extraordinary is all about? Creating a life I love based on my passion, and not compromising on that? ” she asked. As someone who has had two job since I was 15 and has paid a lot of dues, I had fun answering this one. I promise, it was said with love!

Don’t for a minute confuse passion with fantasy. Even in your dream job, at your dream company, doing something where the mission matters, you will do things you’d rather not. Not once, not twice, but all the time. Show up ready to work and ready to learn. Be open to the possibility that this role will be a career defining experience and ask yourself what you can do to make it so.

Living your passion will include doing things you detest doing. Things you are not good at. Things that scare you. Things that bore you. Things that are extremely challenging. The presence of these things do not mean you should look elsewhere. Those that look for easy will never find extraordinary. Those above doing grunt work to pay their dues will never deserve a promotion. That is because you live in the real world, not on a unicorn farm. Think of it this way- what if you created a life so extraordinary that someone decided to make a movie out of it? Guess what would make that movie interesting? The struggle. Without it, there is no triumph.

Never shrink away from the challenging things that your passion requires. Otherwise, you’ll be robbing yourself of glory.

Whatever that challenge is, the sooner you accept it and stop grousing about it, the better off you will be. Remember, doing great things requires not only hard work, but also shit work. So go ahead and embrace the fact that extraordinary will always involve intense struggle, and washing windows. Fantastic . . . now you can clearly see the view.

Now, don’t take this post as negative statement about the work ethic of millennials. When I sought my first professional job in the real world, I didn’t really know what to expect either. This young woman really seemed to get it- and appreciate the perspective. She had showed up at this talk to seek advice. She was ready to work. All young people need mentorship- which includes straight talk from some not so young anymore people, who many years ago, benefited from some straight talk from someone else.

Jessica DiLullo Herrin
About the author: 

Based in San Francisco, Jessica DiLullo is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at the Stella & Dot Family of Brands.  The company is backed by Sequoia Capital, and sells high-touch brands through 50,000 independent business owners.  Prior to Stella & Dot, Ms DiLullo held executive assignments with Dell, Inc., Trilogy and weddingchannel.com.  She also authored “Find Your Extradorniary” and is an “Influencer” on LinkedIn.  Follow Jessica on Twitter.