Adulting is hard. Correctly navigating between all the possible career paths is like trying to find help at the Apple Genius Bar: seemingly IMPOSSIBLE! You wave your hands above your head, signaling for anyone anywhere to come over and help, but no one is willing to give you the answers that you need. Luckily, when trying to find the right career path, you don’t have to rely on a hipster dude in a polo to get you where you want to go; according to some of the most successful people in the world, you have all the power and capability in the world to make stuff happen. You may just need a little bit of guidance before you start taking the world by storm -- Daenerys Targaryen style.
Here’s the best career advice from 8 All-Star CEOs.
1) Larry Page: Be Ambitious
Echoing Kanye West’s famous line, “Reach for the stars, so if you fall, you’ll land on a cloud,” Larry Page, co-founder of Google Inc. and CEO of Alphabet Inc, doesn’t believe in settling for less or shooting towards anything other than the stars -- and neither should you.
"I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges. That is what happened with Google."
2) Mary Barra: Follow What You Love
To many, there may be myriad reasons to follow a certain career path: money, benefits, proximity to great Thai food. But for Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, there’s only one:
"The best advice I ever received came from my parents, who encouraged me to work hard and pursue my early love of math. This was great advice for two reasons. First, it led me to do something I really loved. In my experience, in work and in life, there are lots of smart, talented people out there. But talent alone is never enough. One of the things that distinguish those who truly make a difference is passion and hard work. There is truth in the expression that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. And the passion that drives hard work comes from doing something you really love. The second reason this was great advice is that it steered me toward a career in engineering at a time when few women were pursuing work in science, technology, engineering or math — fields that, collectively, we now call STEM."
3) Elon Musk: Accept Failure With Open Arms
Elon Musk’s list of titles and accomplishments is longer than your friend Leslie’s Starbucks order on a Monday morning (“I’ll have a Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet'N Low and One Nutrasweet please”). He is founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors; co-founder and chairman of SolarCity, co-chairman of OpenAI; co-founder of Zip2; and co-founder of PayPal. But his message on how he became so accomplished is short and simple:
"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
4) Hayley Barna: Never Compare Your Weaknesses To Someone Else’s Strengths
Especially when starting or restarting a career, it’s tempting to compare yourself to others in your field. As a result, you can often get caught up in what you think you can and cannot do. However, according to Hayley Barna, Venture Partner at First Round Capital and Co-Founder of Birchbox, this is simply not the right approach.
“'Never compare your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths.' This was advice given to my husband during business school and a mantra we always repeat to each other when we are frustrated about how others are able to make things that are hard for us look easy. It reminds me that while comparisons are tempting, especially for competitive, ambitious people, it’s always important to focus on your own special talents. That's how you can make a real impact. And it's the coordination of everyone's unique skills that can make magic happen."
5) Kenneth Chenault: Have A Winning Goal, Vision, & Mentality
Unlike the success of the Kardashians’, success for most people doesn’t just appear out of thin air. According to Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express, your climb to the top must be guided by clear objectives that you set for yourself.
"To have a winning mentality and to be a consistent winner, you’ve got to have a basis in reality [and] you’ve got to have the ability to, in fact, envision what are your objectives."
6) Indra Nooyi: Never Stop Learning
Given that Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know; the more that you learn, the more places you'll go,” underscoring learning as a tool for growth, it’s fair to think that he would have probably been friends with Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, who echoes the importance of being a student:
"Whether you’re an entry level employee fresh out of college or a CEO, you don't know it all. Admitting this is not a sign of weakness. The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong students."
7) Bob Bechek: Find Your Comfort Zone
Although it’s super important to be open and expand your horizons, being comfortable with your work is key to prolonged success. Having been named Glassdoor’s #1 CEO of 2016, it’s safe to say that Bob Bechek, Partner and Worldwide Managing Director at Bain & Company, knows what he’s talking about when he emphasizes the importance of finding the right fit in the workplace:
"I think it is very, very helpful to join a culture that values what you value – or at least what you aspire to. If you’re able to do that, I think then it is enormously helpful to be what I call inner directed, something close to being what the French say, ‘comfortable in your own skin’ – while also being able to empathize with and listen to other people. If you have those qualities, I think you’re in a position, in the kind of firm culture that has you in a good place, to then drive hard to make good things happen for the team that you’re a part of. If you’re inner directed, but you’re not very good at listening or empathizing with other people, then it can become very difficult to pick up the unwritten rules of a culture that you jump into."
8) Meg Whitman: ‘Run to the fire’
If you ever find yourself doing an assignment that you think is somehow beneath you, Meg Whitman, Chairman, President, and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, wants you to put your pride aside and do it to the best of your ability:
"They asked me to figure out how big the hole the shampoo cap has to be. I thought about saying ‘This is the dumbest assignment.’ Then I thought, I’m going to do the very best job that I can. I’m going to nail it. I’m going to come up with the very best methodology and analysis. … They wanted to teach the discipline of how things got done at P&G…I came up with focus groups, gave consumers shampoo, and measured product usage. All of those things had been done already by P&G, but it was the exercise of going through those steps that the company wanted employees to learn."
As these CEOs outline, the keys to finding your perfect career path are identifying what you love, following it with passion, setting goals for growth, and believing in your ability to kick some major butt. If you can give your all to something that makes you happy, to something that drives you to collaborate, or to something that lights a fire beneath you, success will follow.
For those who aren’t sure what they love to do or what their passions are, remember Indra Nooyi’s words of wisdom: “The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong students.” Explore, learn, and improve. You can’t find the right job if you aren’t actively trying new things or exploring new opportunities. With internships, apprenticeships, and trial-period jobs, there are so many opportunities to get a taste of different fields and, more importantly, figure out what sort of work you actually like doing. If you think you could be a sales superstar, work in an SDR role. If you’re great at communicating and resolving issues, flaunt your stuff as a Customer Experience Associate. You never know what can happen once you make the most of the opportunities around you. You might just climb the career ladder all the way to the top!
The job world is yours for the taking. So long as you align yourself with a role that allows you to grow, blossom, and show exactly why you’re awesome, there’s no telling how happy and successful you can ultimately be.
If you need help talking about what you’re great at, Planted offers career coaching that can guide you throughout the job seeking process. Sign-up in seconds and let us find you the perfect role.