As the end of the school year is coming up, a lot of students are wondering what’s next. Having an education doesn’t always lead directly to a career, though most successful people will tell you that it does help. Lots of people who have been through it have plenty of experience and tons of insight to share about the working world and what awaits new graduates.
New grads are likely to hear iterations of “follow your dreams” or “find a job that makes money.” But that advice is neither clear nor applicable to everyone. Ken Jacobs, Lazard CEO, has a more interesting piece of advice to offer: Focus on degrees of freedom. “The things you do early and the choices you make early about jobs” should help you find other experiences and open you up to learning new skills. “These decisions are going to give you the most opportunity.”
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, would agree that looking for freedom and new opportunities is critical to professional growth. “You may decide to take a break and consider your options. I would urge you to travel, take on new experiences, and draw upon those when it comes to making the decisions that will shape your future,” Branson says. “The amount of ideas that people pick up from traveling the world is enormous.”
Traveling imparts a kind of uncertainty and adaptability to a person. If you’re outside of your home country and you’re faced with new challenges, you have no choice but to meet them. For some, uncertainty is the best thing that could happen to them. “Uncertainty means that nothing is predetermined. Uncertainty means that the future is yours to shape—with the force of your will, the force of your intellect, and the force of your compassion. Uncertainty is freedom,” says Jim Kim, President at the World Bank.
Others still, like actor T.J. Miller, have more simple advice to offer: “Work harder than anyone else around you and be nice,” he says, adding that it’s important to “know who you are and don’t apologize for it.”
There are many ways to be successful, and none of them are exactly alike, as these insights prove. What your future looks like depends on you and what you want. Seize opportunity where you find it, be a responsible employee, and embrace change.