my career path thoughts for young investors
4 min read

my career path thoughts for young investors

i've seen a lot of people chiming in with their thoughts on what young aspiring investors should be doing with their careers, especially after the genz vc's movement and the resulting pullback.

i've always been skeptical of generalized, prescriptive career / startups advice like jason is giving above because although it's great to have a strong opinion, everyone is in a different situation and oftentimes this advice does more harm than good.

let me get something out of the way - i'm probably biased here because i went into vc right out of college, so it makes sense that i have this point of view (that young people CAN do this path, and that career vc's can be successful).

if you study top gp's and look at their backgrounds, you'll realize there's no single blueprint for success like jason is suggesting. their backgrounds range from journalism to banking to career vc's to former founders. you can argue that former founders may be the most common background for great vc's, but that doesn't mean you should force every young person that wants to become a vc to start a company first.

adding my perspective (not advice) that i'd add to the conversation here.

the first thing aspiring young vc's should ask is: why do i want to do this job? i agree with many that genz vc's (which had a great goal - increase access to a previously opaque industry) ended up glamorizing the career field and bringing lots of people that may not have been good fits in the door. i'm not advocating against transparency / resources for people looking to break in; i will say one side effect of these "guides" for breaking into an industry (cracking the coding interview / cracking the product interview, genz vc's, etc) is that you get people that are good at playing the game to get in. for engineering, this means people that get great at leetcode but are maybe not as passionate about tinkering on stuff on the side / debugging stuff / being full-stack (which is fine for big companies but tougher for startups). for vc, i think this attracts a lot of resume-builders and people that are very risk-averse (which is exactly what you cannot be in vc). so i think the first step is to ask: why do i want to be a vc? am i drawn into risky endeavors, am i great at listening and asking good questions, am i prepared to lean into my strengths?

another opinion i have (that could be wrong) is that if there is a way to skip intermediary career steps in your career, it's worth exploring that option. it pains me to hear people say "i'm going to spend a few years of my life doing something i really don't want to do, in order to get to what i actually like doing later." sometimes you have to do this, but also sometimes there are ways to get to your end goal without having to spend time on stuff you don't like. for example, say you're in college and you really want to work in private equity, but everyone tells you you need to do 2+ years in banking first. i'd consider the possibility that many people break into pe right out of college by doing certain things (mainly networking with the right people), so it's worth trying to figure out what those things are.

i'm thinking the same thing applies to vc. if you're thinking "i really want to be an investor" and people are telling you "go be a founder or an operator first," ask yourself why. first, if you want to be a vc but first try to start a company, your heart may not be in the "founder" role which is a disservice to your team. second, it's true that people will respect you a lot of you've worked at a cool company or exited a startup, but i think you can also earn respect from founders as a vc by just being smart and nice. some founders may choose to not respect you if you've never done founding / operating roles, and it will be hard to change their mind (and you might not want to work with them anyways).

i've noticed especially sharp people in all industries care less about your resume and more about how sharp you are when you get to talking. founding / operating resume makes it easier to get your foot in the door / get founders on the phone / get blind respect initially before chatting, but if you come across as very sharp, i think founders care more about that than if you worked a cool role at a hot tech company. there are plenty of vc's who formerly worked at a hot tech company that my founder friends initially thought were cool because of their background, but then told me they sucked when they chatted with them.

definitely take my bias into perspective, and i still could be wrong here. another caveat is that this is not intended to be prescriptive advice - every situation is different. but if you really want to be an investor, i think it's fine to stay the path and not jump half-heartedly to an operating role because people tell you you need to do that to be respected. if you're able to come across as smart, nice, and helpful (mainly this means making intros to customers / hires / angels), it's worth a shot building up those skills and trying to become a world-class investor.

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