Unconventional Career Advice
29 highly successful people share their best career advice for people in their 20s
Unconventional Career Advice
President Donald Trump: Be an outsider
Donald Trump at Liberty University
During his first commencement address as President of the United States, Donald Trump implored Liberty University graduates to “challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures.”
“Remember this: Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy,” Trump said. “Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right.”
Trump told graduates being called an “outsider” was, in fact, a good sign — “It’s the outsiders who change the world,” he said.
“The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you must be that you must keep pushing ahead,” Trump said.
Mark Zuckerberg: Finding your purpose isn’t enough
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it’s not enough to simply find your purpose in life — most young people today already instinctively try do do that, he explains.
Instead, he told Harvard’s graduating class of 2017 that the challenge for today’s 20-somethings is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.
“Purpose is that feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself, that you are needed, and that you have something better ahead. Purpose is what creates true happiness,” he said.
To help the rest of the world find a sense of purpose, Zuckerberg says young people can do three things:
1. Do great things, no matter how scary this might seem. “The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that can’t keep us from starting,” Zuckerberg says.
2. Offer your money and time to help someone out. “Let’s give everyone the freedom to pursue their purpose — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we’re all better for it,” Zuckerberg says.
3. Build community. “We get that our greatest opportunities are now global. We can be the generation that ends poverty, that ends disease. We get that our greatest challenges need global responses too. No country can fight climate change alone or prevent pandemics. Progress now requires coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community,” Zuckerberg says.
Richard Branson: Never look back in regret — move on to the next thing
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Richard Branson’s mother taught him that.
“The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,” the Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. “I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”
Sheryl Sandberg: There is no straight path to where you are going
“As Pattie Sellers of Fortune Magazine says, careers are not ladders but jungle gyms,” the Facebook COO wrote on Quora. “You don’t have to have it all figured out.”
Sheryl Sandberg recommends having a long-term, abstract dream to work toward in addition to a more concrete 18-month plan. The long-term plan allows you to dream big, while the short-term plan forces you to push yourself and think about how you want to get better over the next year and a half.
“Ask yourself how you can improve and what you’re afraid to do,” she wrote, adding “that’s usually the thing you should try.”
Warren Buffett: Exercise humility and restraint
In a 2010 interview with Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett saidthat the best advice he ever received was from Berkshire Hathaway board of directors member Thomas Murphy. Murphy had told Buffett:
“Never forget, Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don’t give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow.”
During Berkshire Hathaway’s 2015 shareholders meeting, Buffett also told a curious seventh-grader that the key to making friends and getting along with coworkers is learning to change your behavior as you mature by emulating those you admire and adopting the qualities they possess.
Bill Gates: Keep things simple
In a 2009 interview with CNBC, Microsoft cofounder and chairman Bill Gates admired Warren Buffett’s ability to keep things simple:
“You look at his calendar, it’s pretty simple. You talk to him about a case where he thinks a business is attractive, and he knows a few basic numbers and facts about it. And [if] it gets less complicated, he feels like then it’s something he’ll choose to invest in. He picks the things that he’s got a model of, a model that really is predictive and that’s going to continue to work over a long-term period. And so his ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.”
Ivanka Trump: Think less, do more
Ivanka Trump previously told Business Insider that you need to work especially hard early in your life to find and foster your passions so that you can love what you do.
“Passion is something that’s hard to discover purely through introspection,” she explains. “You have to have experiences — you have to learn real time and through experiences what makes you tick.”
This means identifying the things that you could potentially be interested in and then just going for them, whether it’s through internships or taking jobs in fields that could potentially be interesting for you.
“Just go out and do things, and those things that continue to spark an interest, do more of,” she advises.
Once you’ve found your passion, the key to success is then putting in the work.
“The only people I’ve ever met who are really successful in their fields, regardless of what field that is, are people who are deeply passionate about the work they do every day and are motivated by a sense of purpose,” Trump says.
Tony Robbins: Make yourself invaluable by learning the necessary skills you may be lacking
Before Robbins was the inspirational speaker with a cult following that he is today, his career was going nowhere, even though he was putting in long hours.
It was his mentor, the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn, who gave him the advice that eventually helped him turn it all around. As Robbins detailed in a Facebook Live Q&A at Business Insider’s New York office:
“He said, ‘Tony, you’re so focused on expecting things to happen so fast … Your worth in the marketplace is based on your ability to add more value than anyone else. If you can find a way to do more for others in your company, more for the employees, more for the clients, than anybody else, our gifts will make room for you. But in order to do that, you’ve got to build skills.'”
Maya Angelou: Make your own path
In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes the late author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer Maya Angelou:
“My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, ‘If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to your place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.'”
Lloyd Blankfein: Chill out
“There’s not a sport — there’s not an activity in life where, if you have a really hard grip, you actually are better. Whether it’s baseball or golf … the looser you are, the further the thing goes, because it’s a lot easier to whip around a string than a stick. If you’re tight, I’m speaking metaphorically, if you’re really tight you’re not necessarily better.”
J.K. Rowling: Embrace failure
“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” show. “It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'”
Before Rowling became one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was a single mom living off welfare in the UK. She began writing about her now famous character, the young wizard, Harry Potter, in Edinburgh cafés, and received “loads” of rejections from book publishers when she first sent out the manuscript, The Guardian reports.
“An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.
She went on to say that she considered her early failure a “gift” that was “painfully won,” since she gained valuable knowledge about herself and her relationships through the adversity.
Melanie Whelan: Get a job, any job
The CEO of SoulCycle believes that new college grads should forget about doing what they think is expected of them and just get to work.
“Get a job and work hard,” she told The New York Times’ Adam Bryant in an interview. “You are going to learn a ton in whatever that job is, so don’t stress too much about what it is or where it is. Just take a job and put your head down, work hard, raise your hand for anything anybody asks you to do.”
Melanie Whelan said it’s important for young job seekers to live in the present rather than worry so much about where they’re headed. The key is working as hard and learning as much as possible. When you do this, she said, good things will follow.
“A lot of people think in terms of ‘should’ — I ‘should’ be a banker, I ‘should’ go to law school, I ‘should’ pursue what I studied in school,” she said.
This is a mistake, she told Bryant.
Eric Schmidt: Say yes to more things
In her book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” Katie Couric quotes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt as advising:
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”
Chelsea Handler: When you make a commitment, keep it
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
The millionaire comedian and actress says that she learned the importance of showing up when she was a waitress in her 20s.
“Whether that was a result of wanting to be liked from years of rejection in high school, or whether it was wanting to be dependable and reliable after years of being the opposite, I just wanted people to feel that they could count on me,” she writes in a LinkedIn post, titled “I Used to Hate Doing Stand Up. Then I Discovered the Power of Showing Up.”
Handler says that her habit for dependability has since bled into every facet of her life.
“It was no longer an option to not show up. I now practice ‘showing up’ with everything I do. It has permeated every facet of my life. Whether it’s wanting to cancel a workout, a friend’s party, a public appearance, my family in New Jersey. Whatever it is, when I commit, I show up,” she says.
Steve Jobs: Don’t just follow your passion, but something larger than yourself
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
In a Business Insider article, Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” referenced Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who recalled an exchange he had with Jobs shortly before he died.
Jobs reportedly told Isaacson:
“Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.”
Suze Orman: With success comes unhelpful criticism — ignore it
Leigh Vogel/Getty Images
In a LinkedIn article about the best advice she ever received, motivational speaker, author, and CNBC host Suze Orman wrote that success has often made her a target of nasty criticism“entirely disconnected from facts.” At first these attacks made her angry, but she eventually learned to ignore them.
“A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking. The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.”
Arianna Huffington: Don’t work too hard
Business Insider Video
In a LinkedIn post, The Huffington Post and Thrive Global cofounder Arianna Huffington revealed that she’s often asked if young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends.
“This couldn’t be less true,” she wrote. “And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”
She says that she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.”
Stewart Butterfield: Have an ‘experimental attitude’
Stewart Butterfield, cofounder of Flickr and chief executive of Slack, one of the fastest-growing business apps of all time, shared his best advice for young people with Adam Bryant of The New York Times:
“Some people will know exactly what they want to do at a very young age, but the odds are low. I feel like people in their early- to mid-20s are very earnest. They’re very serious, and they want to feel like they’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age rather than just trying to figure stuff out. So I try to push them toward a more experimental attitude.”
Dr. Phil McGraw: Make sure you’d be all right with someone judging you on any of your work
The television personality, author, psychologist, and host of the “Dr. Phil” show suggests that, before you submit any work, you should ask yourself if you’d be OK with it being the only thing someone used to form an opinion of you.
He told Business Insider that he learned this lesson during the second season of his show, when he was having trouble deciding if he should cover a particular topic for an episode.
His son said to him: “You have to ask yourself this question: ‘If someone is only ever going to see one Dr. Phil episode in their life, would you be OK with it being this one?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ don’t do it.'”
McGraw says that he keeps this in mind now with all of his work, whether it’s a book he’s writing, an answer he gives in an interview, or an episode he does.
George Stephanopoulos: Relax
“Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow,” “Good Morning America” coanchor George Stephanopoulos told personal-finance website NerdWallet. “Down the road, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.”
Marla Malcolm Beck: Remember that you won’t end up where you start
Marla Malcolm Beck, cofounder and CEO of Bluemercury, said in an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times that she always reminds students that “nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you’re interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.”
Her other piece of advice: Go into tech.
“If you look at all the skill sets companies need, they involve a comfort level with technology,” she told Bryant.
T.J. Miller: Work harder than anyone else around you
Steve Jennings/Getty Images
T.J. Miller, comedian and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” told personal-finance website NerdWallet that this is truly the formula to success: “It worked for me, and I have mediocre talent and a horse jaw.”
Alexa von Tobel: Get up, dress up, and show up
What Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and the author of New York Times best-seller “Financially Fearless,” means is that it’s important to wake up excited for what’s coming, dress the part, and always show up ready to go.
“As a new hire, you will likely find yourself in tons of new situations, and it’s up to you to figure out how to navigate them.
“Remember that your manager is strapped for time, so know when to ask questions. Are you unsure of the objectives for an assignment? Asking her to clarify is crucial, since it’s pretty hard to make the mark if you don’t know where it even lies.
“On the flip side, avoid bombarding your manager with petty questions that could be answered by your peers or a quick Google search.”
John Chen: Being a ‘superstar’ can hurt your career
“Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a LinkedIn post. “While it’s important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your coworkers.”
It can also turn off your boss, he warns.
“Trying too hard to show you’re a superstar tells me that you only care about what’s best for you, and not the company as a whole,” he wrote.
Salli Setta: Never eat lunch alone
The benefit of always having lunch plans with someone are twofold: You can get information that will help you “think about your job differently,” and you also get on your companion’s radar.
“It isn’t about saying ‘hi, what are we going to talk about, let’s talk about sports,'” Setta said. “It’s about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind” and going in armed with “a couple of things that you want to ask, and a couple of things you want to share.”
Deepak Chopra: Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty
In a LinkedIn post, Deepak Chopra, popular author and founder of The Chopra Foundation, said that he wished he embraced the wisdom of uncertainty at a younger age.
“At the outset of my medical career, I had the security of knowing exactly where I was headed,” he wrote. “Yet what I didn’t count on was the uncertainty of life, and what uncertainty can do to a person.”
“If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty — it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,” he wrote.
Brian Chesky: Don’t listen to your parents
Brian Chesky, cofounder and CEO of Airbnb, said in an interview with The New York Times’ Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn’t listen to their parents.
He told Bryant:
“They’re the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents’ career advice, and I’m using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world. I also say that whatever career you’re in, assume it’s going to be a massive failure. That way, you’re not making decisions based on success, money and career. You’re only making it based on doing what you love.”
Diane von Furstenberg: Keep it real
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
In an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg said she learned that trusting yourself is the key to success.
“In order to trust yourself, you have to have a relationship with yourself,” she told Bryant. “In order to have a relationship with yourself, you have to be hard on yourself, and not be delusional.”
Rick Goings: Be nice to everyone
Courtesy of Tupperware Brands
Rick Goings, CEO of home-products company Tupperware Brands, shared his favorite pearls of wisdom for young people with Business Insider. One of them was to be nice to everyone when you go on a job interview.
“I like to check with the driver, our receptionist, and my assistants on how the candidate interacted with them. How you treat others means the world!” he said.
Unconventional Career Advice
Unconventional Career Advice