Monday, September 12, 2011

Advice for a high school senior

In general:
You will soon have an enormous amount of freedom to determine the course of your life.  This is more freedom than you will know what to do with. You have to understand that the world is not set up to help you or harm you.  Society is like the laws of nature: it simply doesn't care about you.  If you want something out of life -- love, or money, or happiness, or success -- it is your job, your constant job from now on, to figure out how to get that from the system. You've got to wrestle those things out of the ground.
Now this having been said, you also should realize that it's all life. All the good parts of life and the bad parts are all mixed together.  We all make terrible decisions with lifelong consequences and have brilliant accidents and friends die and children are born. That's just the kind of thing life is.  Don't beat yourself up about it too much.
You need to make plans, and you need to work and think and fight harder than you ever thought you would need to to make them happen.  But no matter what happens, good or bad, experience it -- accept it --  instead of wishing so hard that it was something different that you are angry about it all the time.

About jobs:
As nearly as I can tell, no one has ever gotten a job worth having by going to a jobs website and applying for something that fit their qualifications. It may have happened, but I've never heard of it. Instead, what happens is this: you get to know people, who find out that you are reasonably clever and not prone to yelling. You let them know you are looking for a job.  When their other friends need to hire someone, your friends mention that they know a guy. This leads to an entirely different sort of interview.  The first kind of interview they assume they won't hire you, and they don't.  The second kind of interview they assume they will hire you and they do.
This is why you should do internships and volunteer and write open-source software and generally get yourself into rooms with grown-ups who can see you are a competent sort of person. It's a random and unpredictable process so try to get in as many of these situations as you can.