The below career advice is taken from the commencement (graduation) speeches given by the following people:
- Steve Jobs
- JK Rowling
- Barack Obama
- Tim Cook
- Oprah Winfrey
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Jim Carrey
Career Advice for New Graduates: Steve Jobs
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
You’ve got to find what you love.
And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
You can find the transcript of Steve’s speech here
Career Advice for New Graduates: JK Rowling
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure?
Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.
I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea.
And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
So given a time turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement.
Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two.
Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.”
You can find the transcript of J.K.’s speech here
Career Advice for New Graduates: Barack Obama
“You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy.
I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action.”
Career Advice for New Graduates: Tim Cook (CEO of Apple)
“Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.
Don’t try to emulate the people who came before you to the exclusion of everything else, contorting into a shape that doesn’t fit.
It takes too much mental effort – effort that should be dedicated to creating and building.
You’ll waste precious time trying to rewire your every thought, and, in the mean time, you won’t be fooling anybody.”
Career Advice for New Graduates: Oprah Winfrey
“Every right decision I’ve made—every right decision I’ve ever made—has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. That’s the lesson. And that lesson alone will save you, my friends, a lot of grief. Even doubt means don’t.
This is what I’ve learned. Follow your feelings. If it feels right, move forward. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”
“So, how do I define success? Let me tell you, money’s pretty nice. I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that it’s not about money, ’cause money is very nice. I like money. It’s good for buying things.
But having a lot of money does not automatically make you a successful person. What you want is money and meaning. You want your work to be meaningful.
Because meaning is what brings the real richness to your life. What you really want is to be surrounded by people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That’s when you’re really rich.”
“Now I want to talk a little bit about failings, because nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end—as you will—it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course.
So, for every failure—this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time—I say, what is this here to teach me?”
Career Advice for New Graduates: Ellen DeGeneres
“But my idea of success is different today. And as you grow, you’ll realize the definition of success changes. For many of you, today, success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila.
For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not, to live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way.”
Career Advice for New Graduates: Jim Carrey
“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice.
Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
It’s not the only thing that he taught me though:
I watched the affect my father’s love and humour and how it altered the world around me, and I thought, ‘That’s something to do, that’s something worth my time.’
The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.”
If you found the above advice helpful and want more, check out the advice of 100 graduates 10 years out of university in my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’.
You can get the free ebook version here.