Real Advice For The Real World

May 19, 2016
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

As it is graduation season, most of us know someone who is getting ready to make their way into “the real world.” At such an important time, it’s good to share the wisdom of experience.

I’m often asked what advice I’d give to young people just starting out in business. I begin by saying, “keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.”

To clarify further, I would say to them, most importantly, to have a vision for where and what they want to be. They should think about, at the end of the day, what they would want someone to say about their lives and then go make it ‘true.’

They shouldn’t just look for a job, they should look for a role that will allow them to live a life that taps into their skills and passions. And, although their vision will evolve and change, they should keep it in front of mind so they are always moving forward, toward it.

Because this is such a formative time, we also reached out to a number of friends and leaders who have great insight for their advice to recent graduates:



Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid

It’s OK to hit roadblocks and feel like you don’t know what to do next. That’s going to happen. There were definitely times where I had no idea what I was doing, and I made some HUGE mistakes. But that’s OK. Do your research, write down your goals (and make sure they’re SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely), and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  People want to help you, but you have to let them know you need help! Also remember that someone telling you ‘no’ might start something for you instead of stopping it.



Kip Tindell, Founder and Chairman of The Container Store, author of Uncontainable: How Passion, Committment and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives.

When young people ask me for advice, I say forget about grades and making a big salary – follow your dream. If you really want to go to business school, get it done as quickly as possible and then get back out into the real world. If you really want to be an entrepreneur, don’t get settled into a career and get used to making six figures – before you know it, you’ll be married with kids and will never give up that job security to start something. Do it right out of the gate, throw yourself into it 100 percent, and never look back. If you wait, you’ll never have the courage to create something special.



William Ury, co-founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation and author of Getting to Yes and Getting to Yes With Yourself

No challenge you will face is impossible if you can learn to collaborate with others.  And the foundational skill for collaboration is to be able to listen, to put yourself in the shoes of others.  Listening means more than hearing the other person’s words; it means listening for what’s behind the words, for what the person is really feeling, for what is really driving them.  If we can understand the other person, we are much more likely to get to yes.  Practice true listening every day — and the rewards you will reap in happiness and success will be immense.



Bob Burg, coauthor of The Go-Giver and The Go-Giver Leader

As a future leader, earning the trust of others will be your most valuable asset. And, you’ll do that by the way you commit to them genuinely and authentically. Know that great leadership is never about you, the leader, but rather about everyone whose lives you have the opportunity to touch; to add value to. When others understand that this is truly who you are, then they will trust you, and they will commit to you.



Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, author of Joy, Inc. – How We Built a Workplace People Love

The best advice I can offer a recent college grad is to simply raise your hand and say ‘I can help with that.’ By volunteering both within your company and your community, you enrich your life, your experience and the lives of others. I am an engineer by trade and education and am now a CEO and entrepreneur. I can recall during the earliest days of my career, my company was going to a trade show in Las Vegas and they needed help both constructing the booth and staffing the floor to talk to potential customers. I said ‘I’d love to help with that.’ I learned so much about what our customers actually needed. I built great relationships with our sales and marketing teams. I learned a lot about the hard work, sore feet and busted knuckles of business. My life and my career advanced each time I volunteered for something outside my normal scope of work, and my comfort zone.

These young people likely began making life-changing decisions prior to graduation, but the next few months will be very important in determining the trajectory of the rest of their lives.

Their experiences in the workplace will vary widely. Some will walk into environments where they are treated as a number or a function; some will hopefully work for companies where their leader truly cares for and values them as a person. They may encounter leaders who are there to teach and mentor, but many will end up reporting to a manager who is there only to further his or her own ambition. In any case, as they walk through the doors of the workplace post-graduation, these formative experiences will have long-lasting effects.

Think about the young people in your life who might benefit from this wisdom and share it with them. Better yet, create a workplace where they’ll have the opportunity to become all they were meant to be and get ready to develop tomorrow’s truly human leaders.


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