Warren Buffett: Focusing Only on Your Resume Is Like 'Saving Up Sex for Your Old Age'
Warren Buffett loves his job. And so when it comes to career advice, Buffett somewhat predictably thinks that you too should love your job too. In a lecture at The University of Florida's business school in 1998, Buffett told students to stop thinking about their damn resumes and just think about what they want to do. And then said do that.
Here's Buffett, via Buffett FAQ:
I get to work in a job that I love, but I have always worked at a job that I loved. I loved it just as much when I thought it was a big deal to make $1,000. I urge you to work in jobs that you love. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it will look good on your resume. I was with a fellow at Harvard the other day who was taking me over to talk. He was 28 and he was telling me all that he had done in life, which was terrific. And then I said, "What will you do next?" "Well," he said, "Maybe after I get my MBA I will go to work for a consulting firm because it will look good on my resume." I said, "Look, you are 28 and you have been doing all these things, you have a resume 10 times than anybody I have ever seen. Isn't that a little like saving up sex for your old age?"
So without putting too fine of a point on it, Buffett's basic idea is that you shouldn't skip out on doing something today because you think you'll be able to do it better in the future. Work a job you love, or work to find a job you love, and don't pursue something because it will — or, well, it might — look good on a resume.
Your resume is an abstract representation of your career and accomplishments that may or may not matter, depending on how you want to leverage it. Your actual job is something real you can love right now. If, that is, you work to find that job.
There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. When I first got out of Columbia Business School, I wanted to go to work for Graham immediately for nothing. He thought I was over-priced. But I kept pestering him. I sold securities for three years and I kept writing him and finally I went to work for him for a couple of years. It was a great experience. But I always worked in a job that I loved doing. You really should take a job that if you were independently wealthy that would be the job you would take. You will learn something, you will be excited about, and you will jump out of bed. You can't miss. You may try something else later on, but you will get way more out of it and I don’t care what the starting salary is.
When you get out of here take a job you love, not a job you think will look good on your resume. You ought to find something you like.
And look, we get that a major criticism of Buffett is that he's a hypocrite and loves to tell other people to do things he himself doesn't do (like pay high taxes). And while the lesson here is at times a bit, er, vivid, it's pretty sensible: either be happy or don't, and never do something now just for the promise of some ambiguous payoff later.