The passionate consultant

3rd September, 2005

Dear Economist,
I am majoring in strategic and production management at a German university and seem headed for a career in management consultancy. But cinema is my passion. Should I follow my heart and do films, even if it seems risky?
— Florian Neumann, Germany

Dear Florian,
The answer depends on you – or more precisely on how you compare with rivals for these jobs. Choosing the best career is a little like trying to choose the shortest queue at the post office. (Perhaps you do not have queues at German post offices – try to imagine.) All the queues will tend to be equally long; if any of them were obviously quicker, people would already have joined them.

The only reason for you to choose one queue over another would be if you had a crush on the handsome post office clerk at window number two, and nobody else did. If everyone else did, each of you would find it a toss-up as to whether to spend twice as long queuing for a chance to brush hands over the stamps, or to get quick service from somebody less fanciable.

Now, back to your career choice. All jobs, like all post office queues, are similarly attractive once you take into account working conditions, entry qualifications and pay. What you must consider is not whether you like creative work, but whether you like it more than all the other aspiring film-makers who are keeping wages low and opportunities scarce.

Your choice to study management now makes consulting easier, and therefore relatively more attractive, compared with other potential careers. It’s as though you chose a queue some time ago and are now near the front. Since you are considering joining the back of another queue, however, perhaps you are just obtuse enough to make film-making the ideal choice.

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