Practical step by step guide to get your career started in a meaningful direction

Looking for a job? Trying to decide on an education?

Below you’ll find my most concrete and detailed guidance yet to a meaningful and effective education, for a rewarding and future-proof career.

Summary: contact a lot of start-ups and ask them, then study on-line whatever skills they are missing

Share this post. If you only share one single post on my site, this one should be it. Share it with your entire network. Make sure those guys who can’t decide what to study, where to study, how to study etc. read it and apply the lessons in it.

There is no spoon

First you must realize your future is not as just another employee at a big firm.

And the path to where you are going probably isn’t through 4-5 years of partying and time-wasting in formal education.

Then commence your quest to find the right place for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Find a directory of start-ups. In Sweden you could, e.g., start here, at SiSP, where you’ll find 80 start-up areas with dozens or hundreds of associated start-ups each.
  2. Start with the area closest to you, e.g., this one, UIC.
  3. Call and visit all the companies on their list.
    1. UIC currently lists some 300 young companies and start-ups.
    2. Send e-mails directly to each company and start scheduling as many meetings you can.
    3. Treat the project like an essay or writing a book, not as job interviews.
      1. The goal is to map which companies there are,
      2. which industries and sub-sectors,
      3. which problems they are trying to solve and
      4. with which technologies, and not least,
      5. what skills they are looking for in potential employees or partners.
        1. Ask them outright if they would hire people without formal education and
        2. if skills are more important than diplomas.
        3. Do they test the skills of their employees or do they just check their grades?
  4. Keep going through companies on the list, until you find an industry or sub-sector that you find particularly interesting, or, alternatively, that is looking for people and find you interesting
  5. Make a summary of your findings. Do it in a way that you imagine could be interesting to start-ups in your chosen sub-sector -and send it to them. Identify how different start-ups could help each other, or how one company’s methods could be used in another etc. What problems or solutions are they missing? If you find something like that, they’d hire you in a heartbeat.
  6. OK, maybe you’re not ready to get a job, but now you have a clear view of challenges, available technologies and what skills and knowledge you would need to be able to contribute to those or similar companies in the future, after your “education”. So, let’s get that education:
  7. Ask around at forums like YCombinator on how best to acquire the skills you need. There you can find out even more about what skills are in demand and where to acquire those. E.g., ask whether it is best to study in a formal setting, or if there are online resources that are equally good or better.
  8. My guess is that Stanford, MIT, KTH, Linköping, Lund, Chalmers offer very interesting courses for free. And then there are of course Coursera, Khan and Codecademy, not to mention YouTube in general if you know what you ant to learn. And here are 144 other on-line study resources. In addition never forget the importance of taking stuff apart and trying to put it back together again (with the help of YouTube)
  9. Study. That is, take what you found out in the points above, and either study on-line or combine it with some kind of formal education
  10. Stay in contact with the start-up scene. Keep meeting with new companies; IRL or over Skype if you or they prefer that. Keep identifying which problems are being solved and what skills the start-ups are looking for.
  11. Consider starting your own business, applying whatever skills you gain along the way during your chosen studies. Build websites. Repair electronics… It’s the perfect way to broaden your network of industry contacts and potential partners.
    1. E.g., if you found out that a company needs Python programmers, start learning Python. Meanwhile, talk online in various programmer forums and find out what you can do with Python – perhaps control quadrotor robots or add features to Japanese robot toys. Start a business doing that to hone your skills as well as make some extra money.


I’ll find you


And, so help me God, I’ll find you and personally punish you, if you don’t set up a website with your findings from all those interviews, and create a community of like-minded people, aggregating each other’s information at one place.



Forgot where to start?

Find a start-up close to you. Call them or e-mail them and ask if you can visit them to see what they are working on, what their challenges are, what kind of skills they would need.

Then do one more.

Continue until you see the light and know what you want and need to learn. Then learn that – preferably fast, on-line, using and building a habit of doing deep work. While you’re at it, maybe try to get paid for your skills along the way, by starting a simple business or doing extra work at the start-ups you of course keep calling and meeting

Share this post. If you only share one single post on my site, this one should be it. Share it with your entire network. Make sure those guys who can’t decide what to study, where to study, how to study etc. read it and apply the lessons in it.



  1. It’s been a slow process but that’s the idea behind my blog I wanted to learn about software-defined radio and after reading a lot online and in text books I found a guy interested in volunteer help getting SDR GPS working on a rocket (he provides hardware/tests, I provide time) so I focused there but keep branching out into other areas like cognitive radio and blind signal analysis.

    I do need to better feed back the resources I found most useful my path on how I learned skills along the way to give other people a jump start. Learn here, not here, etc.

  2. This post have got some great ideas yet succinct and very actionable.

    So yeah just wanted to thank you for the amazing value you give away.

  3. Solid post Mikael. Always like reading your stuff :) – have you ever watched the TED talk “A New Way To Work” by Charlie Hoehn?

    It closely resembles your advice IMO.

    Two questions;

    What top source (1) are you using to keep up-to-date with the latest improvements and trends in the ICT/Tech-sector? I feel like I’m missing out on crucial trends.
    How does your diet currently look like (sort of meals you eat)? Paleo, keto or full YOLO?

    Keep up the great blogging man! You’re one of the few people I still infrequently check :)

    Btw: Don’t you think you could use a better looking wordpress theme? Here’s some free options;

    Free themes 1
    Free themes 1

    This comment is going to look pretty stupid if HTML tags don’t work.

    • Many questions!

      1) Yes I’ve seen the talk. Very good. The more spreading that message the better
      2) Tech: Hard to say; I subscribe to a 20+ science podcasts, a dozen YouTube channels, subscribe to KurzweilAI, Singularity Hub
      3) Diet: no scheme, but I fast 12-16h per day, don’t eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken. I eat a lot of eggs, drink milk, protein shakes, olive oil, fish, quorn, beans, leafy greens, spices, berries…
      4) Theme: Yes, still nothing happening though :). Will check the links.

        • I don’t like the idea of kidnapping and captivity. I’m not entirely clear on the issue, but look forward to non-thinking meat production in the future.

  4. Hey Mikael,

    Seems I forgot to comment on this article when you published it. Whoops!

    You have a certain way of teaching(?) that is point blank without the addictives. What I mean is you don’t waste time sugar coating information.

    Going to college has always been the go-to for me(no, shit, you don’t say!) but having been accepted last year(than my youngest was born) then rejected this year my interest in attending college is beginning to wane. But through the savings which my parents invested(if you can call automated savings without your management investing) I have $12,000 just waiting for me if I attend college.

    Which means I need to take some blow-off BS course for 1 year(costs only~$600 dollars in Quebec) and than I’ve got some capital to invest, build businesses, etc.

    But I wanted to thank you for making clear and concise some of the shit I instinctively know is going to happen. You’ve laid out an interesting tactic for finding shit out so I am compiling a list of startups in Quebec right now. I just need to change my mindset from, “Quebec sucks and there is nothing here” into seeing the opportunity. And I need to stop making excuses for not becoming more functional with my french communication :)


    Shawn Michael Hartwell

    • Always good to hear from you.

      In golf they talk about accepting or liking the “lie”, i.e. how the ball has positioned itself, since there is no way around it. Better like Quebec, I guess :), and start calling on those start-ups.

    • Not a fan of it. Google had turned youtube into a whole different place. Before Google Bought it it was well good, simple and it worked. I think if you are going to do these new channels you should have the option to keep the old design. And a grid view for the video's because I hate scrolling down the video,s like that it just frikin annoy's me!

  5. Would this apply to a 40 something year old who needs to change or would there be anything different in your approach

  6. How do I narrow down the list of startups or even find a good startup directory? I live in the US and there are so many start-ups and companies in each of the fields you mention? How do identify which ones are the best?

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