Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thoughts on Career Advice for College Grads from Linkedin's Founder

Not everyone knows precisely what they want to do once they graduate.  Reid Hoffman spent 15 years trying to figure it out.  But when he did, it worked out well for him - he's the owner/founder of LinkedIn.  Here's a link to a slide show presentation he put together on some of the lessons he felt he learned through the whole process - click here to see the slide show.

In a nutshell, he says that  new graduates need to learn to manage three things to be successful:
1. Competition
2. Networks
3. Risk.

He feels that rather than magnifying the importance of finding the answers to questions like:
 - How do I bring my different interested together into a career?
 - What should I do if I don't know what I like?
 - How do I choose between so many different passions?
 - What should I do with my life?
 - How do I make a positive difference in the world?
he would be more concerned that everyone else is focusing on those same things, and suggests it might be better to focus on the Competitive Advantage you have over everyone else.

He believes networks are important (of course he would, being the founder of LinkedIn).  I do as well.  Opportunities come from people.  He makes this point very well in the slideshow.

The conventional education system doesn't focus much on risk.  However the real world is all about taking risks and learning from what happens.  Learn by doing.  ACTIONS, not plans, generate useful, unforgettable lessons.  Taking intelligent risks will give you a competitive advantage.

After going through the content of his presentation a couple of times, I still feel something is missing.  It feels too much like... a rat race.  To me, Neil's presentation seems geared towards being a successful businessman/entrepreneur.  People with those kind of aspirations will likely find this presentation perfect for them.

I believe you have to have your own definition of success.  Do you have an idea of what a successful 'life' for you would be?  Life beyond your career. Putting together a definition like this also takes time.  Is success a journey or a destination?  Does it include a family?  How much stress are you willing to put up with?  How will you balance financial stability with a career you dream of (that may not be as financially stable)?  What does success mean to you, really?  To me, that is the bottom line graduation question. 

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