Valuable Career Advice These Business Leaders Would Give Their Younger Selves
Every year around this time, I can consistently expect three things to happen: my seasonal allergies begin to flare up, my DVR gets locked into NBA playoffs and my LinkedIn inbox starts getting flooded with messages from college students who are nearing graduation and want career advice. In this article, we’ll focus on the third one.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 3 million college students will earn their degree at the end of this school year and most will prepare to enter the workforce. How do we ensure this generation is armed with the guidance they need?
The LinkedIn messages I receive usually involve questions about how to navigate the job market. What is a reasonable and appropriate entry-level role? How do I find a good mentor? Should I prioritize a job with a flashy title over a job I would love doing? How long should I stay in that role before looking for the next opportunity?
I always try my best to respond and customize advice for people who contact me about readiness for the professional real world. However, since tailored advice isn’t always feasible for a large audience, I went searching for some general, yet less obvious, suggestions that could benefit a broader audience.
Building on the ideas I provided last year, I wanted to expand the knowledge pool and get advice from some smart and successful people in my network who have some unique words of wisdom to share. I asked what career advice they would offer to their younger selves or family members and the insightfulness of responses was invaluable.
Career advice from business leaders
Here’s what they told me about picking the right career path, finding the right mentor and getting in the right mindset to land the career of your dreams:
Lawrence Cole, head of mid-market lead gen sales, U.S. Northwest at Google, said this:
“Be mindful about the roles you take and the scope and level of responsibility they expose you to. Early exposure to seniority and the strategic systems of a business will pay off mid-career and beyond in the level of responsibility that organizations are willing to give you. The sooner you are able to check boxes such as leading teams, managing other managers, managing large budgets, creating a big vision and mobilizing a large team of people to execute it, the better.”
David Belden, executive talent partner at Andreessen Horowitz, suggested this:
“Meet with people who have the job that you want and ask them for advice on how to get to a role like theirs in the future. This is of course a great learning opportunity, but also has the potential to spark an informal mentee-mentor relationship, which can be invaluable to career development.”
Navid Zolfaghari, vice president of sales at Branch Metrics, provided this perspective:
“Regardless of how skilled or talented you are, you won’t be successful if you don’t produce. Learn to love what you do, outwork everyone, and have a growth mindset.”
Jeanne DeWitt, head of North American revenue and growth at Stripe, shared this advice:
“Always work for someone you can learn from. And, understand the difference between a mentor and a sponsor — if you don’t have someone in the organization actively supporting the acceleration of your career (a sponsor), you’re heading down a longer road.”
Rashaun Williams, general partner of the MVP All-Star Fund, offered the following:
“I wish I was more focused on being excellent and an expert at my current job instead of focusing on the job I wanted but didn’t have. Also, don’t make important decisions solely based on your emotions. How you “feel” changes minute by minute. Consider your spirit, mind, physical comforts AND emotions when making big decisions.”
Angela Benton, entrepreneur and founder of NewME Accelerator, said this:
“Don’t stress about not having it all figured out. Social media can make us think that we’re the only one not “trending up and to the right.” Focus intently on where you are at now and use this as leverage while everyone else is focused on projecting where they want to be rather than where they actually are.”
Michael Espada, senior global commercial manager at Sims Recycling Solutions, provided this perspective:
“If you find a good boss early on, support them completely and ride the coattails to the top. Eventually, you will know when to step out into visibility and your boss will likely help you do that.”
Did any of these words of advice resonate with you? If you are among the millions of students nearing graduation or you are simply undergoing a career change, my hope is that you can leverage these wide-ranging nuggets of advice to improve your job prospects.
One of the core tenets of success is being able to learn from the lessons and failures of others. These accomplished business leaders all have undoubtedly experienced their fair share of professional ups and downs, so any shared advice should be viewed by you as an available shortcut on your path for personal success.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.