If you’ve recently graduated from college, you’re probably getting plenty of advice right now, most it less than helpful and not very inspiring. Which is why Reid Hoffman’s presentation “The 3 Secrets of Highly Successful Graduates” strikes such a cord: not only is the advice practical, actionable, and easy to absorb, but it’s overwhelmingly positive, focused on the things you can do, right now, to achieve your dreams.
Hoffman knows something about the difficulties of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up. The founder of LinkedIn, Hoffman spent 15 years dabbling in academics and starting companies before he realized that he was already doing what he should be doing. In his case, it was being an entrepreneur, and a fabulously successful one, but his advice will translate whether you want to be a plumber or a professional figure skater.
The whole presentation is available over at Business Insider and it’s worth your time, even if you graduated from school 15 years ago. (Or you could look up his book with Ben Casnocha, “The Start-up of You,” which inspired the presentation.) Either way, here are a few points to consider:
1. It’s OK to feel anxious.
The world is changing at an alarming rate. People don’t retire after 50 years with a gold watch and a pension. You’re not crazy to be nervous.
2. It’s OK to not know what you want to do — or to think you know, and be wrong.
That said, let your anxiety swamp you or make you think that you should have figured out which career is right for you. Even successful entrepreneurs sometimes have to bounce around awhile before they figure out what they’re meant to do.
3. Don’t ask “What should I do with my life?”
Instead, focus on developing competitive advantage. Concentrate on your assets (skills, money, intelligence, etc.), aspirations, and market realities (i.e., what people will actually pay you for in the current marketplace).
4. Know that you have something to offer, right now, with the assets you currently possess.
It’s good to know which skills you need to develop in order to market yourself better, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re not an attractive candidate with the skill set you have today.
5. You can change the world.
Hoffman reminds us that sometimes the best question you can ask is, “How can I help?” If you can find out where the need is, you’re closer to fulfilling it. And that’s all changing the world involves, really, at a micro level: fulfilling needs.
6. Build your networks.
Don’t wait for people to come to you. Networking requires conscious effort, once you leave the dorms. Remember that, as Hoffman says, “If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.”
7. Seek out people who are already the kind of person you’d like to become.
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be,” Hoffman writes.
8. Your network is bigger than you think.
The best way to make new connections is through your existing network, whether it’s online or in person. And you already know more people than you think you do, especially if you belong to a social network or two. A few hundred connections on a service like LinkedIn actually connects you with over 2 million people.
9. It’s OK to make mistakes.
Without risk, there is no reward. And, as Hoffman points out, you won’t always know the best plan until you give it a try.
10. Learn by doing.
If you’re still not sure what you’d like to be when you grow up, the best thing to do is to start giving professions a try. Go after an internship to see if you fit with a particular company. Pursue a lower-paying job, because you think you can learn something from it. Now’s the time to give it a shot.
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