Why you shouldn’t know what you want to do coming out of school.

This time last year, I was interviewing for investment banking positions, specifically for Financial Institution Groups and more specifically for Insurance divisions. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the US insurance industry and leverage that into US-China cross border transactions. Seeing increased capital flows from China and acquisitions like Anbang’s $1.95 billion purchase of the Waldorf Astoria inspired me to spend 6 months in China/HK, immersing myself in food, culture and business practices.

My deep dive into the world of insurance investment banking got me in front of Cathy James, who started Morgan Stanley’s insurance investment banking division and Brad Nordholm, CEO of Starwood Energy. They are both Carleton alumni. Next thing I knew, I was getting sit downs with senior insurance bankers and executives with whom I had no business meeting. One of these meetings was a conversation with Khanh Tran, President of Pacific Life, during which he asked me, “Do you actually enjoy insurance?”

“Everyone has a plan, ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

I didn’t have an answer for him. Millennials are told to do what they love, but it’s hard to find something you love that changes the world and pays the bills at the same time. Strangely enough, most of my peers were in the same boat. Most college students have no idea what they want to do coming out of school and the ones who think they do will probably be doing something different in 10 years.

My solution was to fall back on alumni mentors. These people had been in my shoes before and had unique stories about how they built their careers. Homi stands for Humans of My Institution, a play off of Humans of New York. We think that everyone has an incredible story and we want to help share those stories. We started building Homi in February 2015 with the goal of helping students and alumni build meaningful relationships.

One year later, things have come full circle. Homi is growing faster than any of us could have imagined, Khanh has come on as an advisor and Cathy and Brad are invested in Homi. We are closing our seed round soon (fingers crossed), expanding across the country and have found a niche in helping companies rebrand towards millennials through alumni career stories. This organic content is different from a job posting or a banner ad – it’s real people telling stories of how they fell into an industry and built their careers.

This year of building Homi has taught me to accept what I don’t know. All the classes and internships in the world won’t prepare you for the workplace and the best thing you can do is to admit that you know nothing. Coming to terms with that is humbling but it opens you to learning and developing as a person. Now I wake up in the morning and it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work, partly because we live and work in the same house, but mostly because I’ve found something I love doing.

Originally published January 27, 2016
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-you-shouldnt-know-what-want-do-coming-out-school-philip-xiao/

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