Creating a Career That Doesn’t Exist: An Interview with Jesse Jacobs

by | Sep 18, 2012 | Interviews & Inspiration | 20 comments

M y Dad loved to tell people he worked in computers at a time when people would turn to him quizzically and ask, “What’s a computer?”

He was working in the industry long before Jobs and Gates, and were it not for his mental illness, he might have made a name for himself. Even still, and perhaps more importantly, it was work he was good at and loved.

That’s why I tell my clients they need to get creative when brainstorming new careers. I tell them that their ideal career may not exist yet.  Or it may be so new and young, they just haven’t heard of it. The trick has been finding an example of someone who’s doing that right now, not several decades ago.

So let me introduce you to Jesse Jacobs, founder and owner of the Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco.

I was drawn to Jesse’s story, because when you hear about the early stages of his career, he sounds like someone who was lost. He got a degree in international relations, then worked and studied abroad for several years. He bounced around several jobs, including as a shoeshine boy, a magician, and working at the Alaskan fisheries.

His love of foreign languages eventually led him to learn HTML. In the late-90’s he found himself in the Bay Area, in the middle of the dot com boom, and settled into a corporate job building websites and doing IT consulting.

The money was great, but the work became monotonous, and then soul-sapping.

In this interview, Jesse walks us through how he decided to start what he terms a “tea lounge,” perhaps the only of its kind in the world, with zero experience and virtually no financial resources. Despite an industry where very few survive, he’s grown to three locations in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.  For the first 6 years, revenues doubled every year and continue to grow.

And he’s done it selling tea.

It’s a story you have to hear to believe.

What’s so critical about this interview is that it’s a great example of how to turn a rather nebulous passion (in Jesse’s case, a passion for creating human connection) into a tangible, creative and rather profitable career.

Because in fact, Jesse isn’t selling tea at all. He’s selling relaxation, he’s selling belonging and community. In essence, he’s selling a new way of life.

And you can too.

People come to me with a desire to really make an impact, but only see the path of working for a non-profit. I think what Jesse’s story highlights is that there are more ways to make a difference than you’re probably considering. Jesse changes people’s lives with tea. Sven Lindblad saves the oceans by running a high-end expedition company.  The possibilities are endless.

Jesse and I also talk about

  • How rituals can help you achieve career clarity
  • How your to-do list can help you overcome your fears and rejection
  • Why a tea lounge was able to succeed where three coffee shops could not, including a Starbucks
  • Why you need to be absolutely invested in your dream
  • How personal connection can help you overcome nearly any obstacle
[audio:|titles=Jen Gresham interview with Jesse Jacobs]

Right click to download the audio file (MP3)

Right click to download the transcript