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The Best Career Advice From 15 World-Class Leaders To Millennials

The Best Career Advice From 15 World-Class Leaders To Millennials

“What am I supposed to do?”

Maybe you’ve found yourself asking that question, and not really getting a good answer.

For us millennials, it’s a different game than it was for the generation before us. While there isn’t a concrete step-by-step process for us to take, there are basic principles to follow, whether we’re early in our careers or seeking to further develop it.

To help you with that, here are 15 world-class leaders offering their best career advice:

1. Steve Jobs: It’s not just about your passion.

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, summarized one of the major insights he gained from his last interactions with Steve Jobs, saying, “The important point is to not just follow your passion but something larger than yourself. It ain’t just about you and your damn passion.”

It’s about finding where you can contribute and benefit 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.”

Career development will be difficult if you’re always only thinking about how you will benefit. Think about how what you do will help your manager, the company, or your customer succeed. When you provide value to others, you open up opportunities.

2. Eric Schmidt: Say yes often.

In his 2012 commencement speech, Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said, “I ask each of you [to]… 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 learning a new language, picking up a new sport. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job. Yes is how you find your spouse, and even your kids.” – Eric Schmidt

Yes is a tiny word that can do big things.

So when you get an offer for your first job and it isn’t exactly what you want, say yes. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll learn. If it works out- perfect. If you don’t feel comfortable applying for a job that’s out of your league, tell yourself yes. Apply for it anyway. You never know what may come out of it.

3. J.K. Rowling: Failure is a part of reaching success.

J.K. Rowling, now one of the wealthiest women in the world, got to know failure very well before she wrote the Harry Potter series. Her short-lived marriage had imploded, she was jobless, a single parent on welfare in the UK, and borderline homeless. If anyone had hit rock bottom, she had. “I was the biggest failure I knew,” Rowling said in her 2008 Harvard commencement speech.

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Even when she wrote Harry Potter, she received numerous rejections.

“I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling told Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today. “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.'” – J.K. Rowling

It isn’t always easy to grow your career nowadays. You have to work harder than the people around you. And even when you work hard, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the results you want. You will fail.

Then you dust yourself off and try again.

4. Warren Buffet: Practice humility.

Early on in your career, you’ll get frustrated with co-workers, managers, and people you don’t really like, but don’t give into it. The best advice Warren Buffet ever got was, “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.”

Take the stance that you’re wrong and your goal is to learn how not to be wrong often. This means swallowing your pride and asking for help when necessary. And don’t get defensive if you’re told that you’re wrong.

5. Oprah Winfrey: Do what you have to do.

Sometimes, you can’t always do what you want to do. Oprah’s creed is, “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” You won’t be able to get everything you want immediately, so you have to work toward it. Gain the skills and experience you need.

Don’t expect to get your dream job right off the bat. Don’t expect your first business venture to succeed. If it works out that way, great. Just know that you may have to do work you won’t enjoy to get where you want to be.

6. Tiger Woods: Play your game.

Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest professional golfer in history states, “There is no ‘correct’ way to play the game”:

“You have a find a system that works best for you. Whatever makes your game better, do it… If you hit the ball better, and you get the ball consistently better, do it.”  – Tiger Woods

You have a different educational background, a different familial upbringing, and different goals from the people around you.

There’s no “right way” to develop your career. One friend might end up moving across the country to improve his career trajectory. Another friend might land a huge opportunity five minutes from home. Whether you’re in software development, marketing, music, nonprofits, or any other industry, play your game.

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Don’t feel the need to copy someone else’s career path.

7. Sheryl Sandberg: View your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder.

While a ladder has two directions (up or down), career paths generally don’t usually follow such a simple path. A jungle gym, on the other hand, allows you to move not just up and down, but sideways, over and under, twisting and turning. You can get creative and explore new options.

Sheryl Sandberg has been in law, journalism, government work, and tech. She was the Chief of Staff to the United States Treasury, became the VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, and now Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.

People often scoff at those who make such drastic changes in their career, jumping from one industry to another, but Sandberg shows the benefits this kind of approach can offer:

“Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.”

When you’re planning out your career, don’t think of it as simply moving up. Think of all the different options you have that can help you get to where you want to be. You’re in a jungle gym.

8. Michael Bloomberg: Never stop learning.

Bloomberg states, “I’ve never met a Nobel Prize winner who didn’t think they had an awful lot more to learn and wasn’t studying every single day.”

No matter how successful you are, the need for learning never stops. Bloomberg believes that there’s nothing so powerful as an open, inquiring mind:

“The world is full of people who have stopped learning and who think they’ve got it all figured out. You’ve no doubt met some of them already – and you’ll meet plenty more.”

9. Serena Williams: Focus is more important than luck.

Serena Williams had a rough childhood growing up in Compton, California and says this about concentration, “If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.”

When asked about being lucky, Serena said:

“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”

There’s a lot of noise out there (maybe not often gunshots), but you have to ignore it. There’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; and people sharing photos of their recent backpacking trip across Asia, their recent engagement, or their new dream job. Ignore all of that.

While other people are focused on what everyone else is doing, you have to stay focused on what you’re doing.

Focus on your career path. The jobs you want. The goals you have. Focus.

10. Richard Branson: Never look back in regret — move on to the next thing.

Richard Branson observes, “The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

His mother also taught him the importance of moving on to the next thing.

When you apply for jobs, or even make a mistake at work, don’t get frustrated, don’t regret it. Move forward to the next application. Focus on the next project. It’s all a part of the learning process.

The time you spend frustrated and regretful is wasted time.

11. Beyoncé: Surround yourself with hard-working and talented friends.

Queen Bey shines much more prominently than her former bandmates from Destiny’s Child. The unfortunate thing is that they’re often compared.

In our lives, we’ll find ourselves comparing our success to people who are much more successful, and well, it makes us feel terrible. However, if Kelly Rowland can accept that being friends with Beyoncé makes her shine more, not less, we can learn something from that.

By being friends with hardworking and talented people, instead of competing with them, you’ll further push your career forward.

Working with the best will only make you better.

12. Arianna Huffington: Don’t work too hard.

Contrary to what many people believe, it’s important to not work too hard. Arianna Huffington learned this the hard way when she burned out, collapsed from exhaustion, hit her head, broke her cheekbone, and woke up in a puddle of blood.

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When asked whether young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends, Arianna Huffington wrote, “This couldn’t be less true. And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.”

She’s convinced that if she had known that when she was 22, she would have achieved all she had achieved but with less stress, worry and anxiety.

Yes, career growth is important. Yes, we should work hard to get where we want to be. But remember that your health is important. Without it, you won’t be able to achieve your goals.

13. Stewart Butterfield: Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr and CEO of Slack, told 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.”

It’s easy to get jealous of people who have it all figured out and know exactly what they want to do. The rest of us have to find out what we want to do, and the best way to do that is experiment. Take on new projects at work, learn new skills on your own, like programming, graphic design, or even brewing, to find out if you like it.

14. Mark Bartels: Have a timeline for success when you start a new job.

StumbleUpon CEO, Mark Bartels tells Business Insider, “Mapping out a concrete timeline for yourself should be one of the first things you do when you start a new gig.”

“We talk about budgets; we talk about planning your finances; but what a lot of people don’t do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers.” – Mark Bartels

A lack of planning can be costly, both in terms of your time and energy- and it could also potentially cause an existential crisis.

Having an agenda helps you define success for yourself in a new role. Otherwise, you may work for two or three years, then ask yourself, “Why am I still here?” If you don’t have concrete goals, you can’t answer that question. But if you set out a plan, you can say, “I still haven’t achieved my goal because … x, y, z, but I’m closer and can achieve it in six more months.”

15. Brian Chesky: Don’t listen to your parents.

When asked about advice for college graduates, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, told The New York Times’, “I’d say, don’t listen to your parents. 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.”

Your parents may want the best for you, but their “best” and your “best” may be different. In some cases they may limit you out of fear that you’ll fail if you reach too high.

He continues to 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.”

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Don’t let success, money, career status and other glamorous thing cloud your judgment about what you want to do. Find something you enjoy doing and do it. Make it work. Don’t try to fulfill someone else’s idea of career success.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via images.unsplash.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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