A little career counseling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJack and I have had long conversations lately about potential careers. I remember the feeling I had at his age: like the whole world was a bunch of wrapped gifts on display, and I was waiting for Christmas. Anything could be in those pretty boxes under the tree.

Except a horse. Not one of those boxes was ever big enough for a horse.

Come to think of it, Christmas rarely lived up to expectations.

But, whatever did happen was bound to be interesting.

Most recently, Jack says he’s decided to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become an entrepreneur. I hadn’t actually thought of us as entrepreneurs. What we have is small consulting company (mostly just me) that works with nonprofits.

I have an office, but since it smells like dryer sheets and doom, I mostly work out of my living room. Or in coffee shops.

But, I’ll take “entrepreneur.” It makes me sound so much more badass than “consultant who works from her couch and wears yoga pants if she doesn’t have to leave the house,” which is what I’d put on my business cards if I was going for accuracy.

Jack says he’ll call his company DeathMark, which sounds pretty badass on its own. Such a name wouldn’t be all that attractive in my industry, but I suspect he’s going after a different customer.

These conversations involve a lot of me biting my tongue.

Last week Jack was hovering between nuclear physicist and anesthesiologist. A top consideration was which would produce the highest salary. We have a long drive from school to the YMCA where he runs and swims and bikes with a team. These drives give us time for talking about his research on which profession earns more and in what market, and about the relative cost of living in Los Angeles versus here.

What exactly Jack is going to be doing with a company called DeathMark isn’t exactly clear to me. It sounds rather Tony Stark-ish. He says what he’s going to produce is proprietary, anyway, so even if I understood it, I couldn’t share it with you.

What I really want to know is what a couple of peacenicks did to raise a kid who plans to start a company that sounds like it traffics in weapons of mass destruction, or contracts mob hits.

Regardless, this is a conversation about marketing rather than product, so I go with the flow.

I wonder if it might even be really good strategy to get a leg up on branding your company before you know for sure what it is you’re going to be producing or selling. So many companies do things the old fashioned way – figure out what you’re going to sell and then talk about how to sell it. They’re closing all the time, so obviously there’s some sort of flaw with their business strategy.

To justify the whole DeathMark branding direction, Jack points out a couple of companies he admires with really cool names. Both make gaming computers. One is Alienware, another one is called Razer. If he’s moving away from producing WMDs or mob hits and into gaming computers, that’s a bit of a relief.

Jack says these companies make insane amounts of money, which is still a priority. He’s no longer sure about the planned nuclear physicist gig, nor the anesthesiologist gig and he doesn’t want to move to LA. Another relief.

He says he’s taking our advice to consider a career that makes him happy over simply the potential for a killer salary. And although DeathMark is poised to make him his gobs of money, it’s really about focusing on his passion.

The millions he plans to make on Youtube are earmarked for his college fund, anyway, and to help with our retirement. Suddenly, he sounds like our kid again.

But then he goes on to describe what he’s going to be doing with DeathMark, and although it doesn’t actually involve a mob hit, it sounds a little too much like Skynet for my comfort.

I abandon my tongue-biting for the moment and suggest the name DeathMark was probably on the short list for those other cool companies at one time, but since it’s parents who buy gaming systems, they probably went with something less sinister sounding on purpose.

Razer, sounds, well, sharp. Alienware is kind of out-of-this-world cool.

Neither evokes images of Sarah Connor outrunning or outgunning a Terminator series robot built by an AI system that has taken over the world in the not too distant future.

Parents don’t dig that.

“That’s a good point mom,” he says. “I’m glad we’re talking about this.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” I say, “to talk about how you’re going to fund my retirement and drive you to the Y.”

So we brainstorm other potential company names.

“What about Dragon’s Reach?” he says. “That kind of implies that we go beyond … to bring you a better product.”

“Beyond what?”

“Beyond whatever our competition is doing.”

“So, like, beyond what Skynet is doing?” I say, “or beyond what Razer is doing? I’m confused.”

“Beyond, like, what anybody is doing. We’re like a dragon stretching his wings to fly to new heights.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah… or stretching out his neck to shoot fire and burn down the whole village.”



Your vote isn’t for Skynet or Dragon’s Reach or anything like that, just silly stories like this one. You can vote as often as once a day and it’ll keep me going. Thanks.


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  1. I both love and hate these conversations with my 16 yr old son. I find myself doing a lot of the tongue biting. He\’s brilliant and could do whatever he wants..and then he talks about going to law school.


    1. Love/hate those conversations myself as well. I worry about what it says about who they are, and then worry about over thinking things.