In order to launch yourself into the so-called "real world," it’s useful to get out of your own head.
Take a step back and imagine yourself as a product in a store. When you buy a product, whether it’s a latte or a laptop, the people who are responsible for creating that product know exactly why you bought it. Their design decisions weren’t accidents; every tiny detail was intentional.
Product managers, the people who are responsible for creating everything you use, from that laptop to that latte, recognize that delivering something valuable is rarely about a single feature or clever advertising. Rather, it’s about something called the whole product.
Take the iPhone. It’s more than just the physical hardware (which is frequently matched by cheaper brands) or the sleek exterior (which you have to cover with a case if you don’t want the screen to crack). The iPhone as a whole product includes the iOS software, iTunes and Apple Music, the App Store, the multimedia conversations you can have via iMessages and the million-plus apps that customize your smartphone experience. The whole product is everything a consumer needs and expects to get when they buy the iPhone, plus the promise of everything it could become. This whole product concept is where BlackBerry went wrong; they didn’t see their whole product as including a million apps and 10,000 songs until it was too late. In contrast, the iPhone is a remarkably whole product and is the outcome of thinking about the whole.
So let’s apply the whole product concept to you. If you view yourself as a product that you’ll launch, what is the Whole YOU that you’ll release to the world? How will you make a valued contribution? How will you be different? And how will you design and build this compelling Whole YOU?
For most people, formal education plays a critical, but relatively small, direct role in their professional lives. It’s not just about the ideas you learn at school, but how you use them.
Education alone doesn’t set you apart.
There are millions of people who will graduate (or already have) with the same education as you. Be proud of your accomplishments, but know that piece of paper is not enough.
Think of your formal education like your physical phone: the plastic, aluminum, glass and microchips. Your education is an important part of you, but it’s certainly not the Whole YOU. What makes your phone valuable is not the physical phone, it’s the apps, music, accessories and options.
This is why your formal education needs to be combined with other “apps” that will create real value and make you different from people with the same coursework behind them. Discovering the Whole YOU requires a thorough understanding of the people and world around you. It’s not just about finding a career or even finding a purpose.