How did you adjust to working with smarter people? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Here were my circumstances:
- I started working at Facebook in 2008 where everyone (I mean EVERYONE) was smarter and had a better pedigree than me. I sat next to people like Blake Ross. You know, this kid. WTF, right!?
- I graduated from UCLA with a 2.9 GPA with a Political Science and International Relations degree. Google won't even look at my resume because of that number.
- I grew up on a farm so it wasn't until college that I really got to explore most career paths (e.g. I didn't know what Venture Capital was until I was 20.)
- I had worked at one startup for 2 years prior to that and did well, mostly because I worked really hard and took on any project that was thrown at me, but it wasn't nearly as competitive of an environment as Facebook. It took me about 8 months to adjust to the work style there.
You will not succeed by trying to play other people's game. Know what your strengths are and the intersection of your strengths and interests. Then double down on that intersection and make sure that whatever position you hold is aligned with those strengths and interests. What that means is you should demonstrate that you completely own a particular skill or subject matter and are the best at that. Companies need role players. Find a role you can crush and crush it.
If a punter/field goal kicker showed up to practice with a new football team and thought "Crap, all of these guys are bigger and more athletic than me!" and tried to outperform the wide receivers and running backs, they would fail miserably. But they don't. They focus on the intersection of their skills and experience and they focus on being the best punter/field goal kicker in the game. Within that more tightly defined role they aim to perform.
Know your strengths. Know what interests you. Combine those two into a role where they are best utilized. Then focus relentlessly in that direction. Degrees and experience from brand name colleges and companies generally fail to predict performance if you're being asked to do something you suck at or don't enjoy doing, or you suck at AND don't enjoy.
For me this has made a major difference. For the most part I stopped listening to what everyone else expected of me, particularly when I knew that they weren't familiar with what I was best at or passionate about.
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