30+ Founders Share Their Best Career Advice for Millennials

career advice

Millennials have more career options and opportunities today than ever before, and it’s difficult to know what to do. Should you work for a startup? Should you establish yourself at a big company? Or should you start your own company? These are some of the questions you might be facing, and there isn’t one clear answer. We decided to talk to a few startup founders to get their take on what’s it’s like for millennials right now.

Here’s some of the career advice they wish someone would have told them when they were younger:

 

Adrian Ridner, Co-founder and CEO of Study.com

“At the time you finish college, your learning journey is just starting. Find a job you love that lets you acquire skills you didn’t learn in college, or take classes online — find some way to keep up with your professional development.”

Marc Prosser, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Fit Small Business

“The biggest question you should ask about your first job is “What skills will I be able to learn?” Especially in your first job, the practical skills and knowledge you pick up are more important than the salary. If you can learn a set of marketable skills, you’ll bolster your value to current and future employers.”

Tony Ellison, Founder and CEO of Shoplet  

“Believe in your vision, but be realistic. Have a solid plan for how you intend to reach your goals and build your empire, but remember that as the road changes, so must you. When Shoplet was in it’s infancy, I had a lot of critics who tried to convince me that pursuing e-commerce was a mistake. I tuned out what wasn’t constructive but I didn’t ignore core issues that arose as my company developed. Holding onto your vision while remaining flexible is a delicate balance. Don’t be afraid to take calculated, well thought out risks and trust your instincts.”

Isaac Oates, Founder and CEO of Justworks

“Consider going after a job at a big company first. You’ll get experience in a more stable environment. Then you can confidently jump headfirst into the startup world after a few years.”

Simon Slade, Co-founder and CEO of Doubledot Media

“When considering a job offer, don’t focus too much on the salary and benefits package. Place greater consideration on the company and your potential coworkers, which are integral to your professional development and gaining industry knowledge. With that as your focus, you will grow faster and will advance more quickly in your career.”

Hampus Jakobsson, Co-founder and CEO of Brisk.io

“Learning is seldom knowledge but being able to get things done and understanding what to do and how to work with other people. Starting or joining a startup can be the best way to learn as you often get to skip a couple of rungs in the career ladder. Having only theoretical (and not practical) skills can make you unhirable, so figure out how you can become a “tool” for the company so you get to do the most interesting things.”

Roger Wu, Co-founder of Cooperatize

“Take as much risk as you can. You will only get more risk averse as you get older.”

Pawel Cebula, Co-founder and COO of Medigo

“Regardless of your major and career path, develop technical and programming skills. All industries are going digital and moving online. Having technical expertise will give you strong advantage over other graduates and job seekers and you can expect a significant boost in your starting salary. These skills will make you more independent and enable you to be more efficient in your daily work.”

Louise Hendon, Co-founder of Paleo Living Magazine

“Networking isn’t about meeting business associates, it’s about making friends and real connections with people you actually like.”

Travis Truett, Co-founder and CEO of Ambition

“Be intentional about using your twenties for personal and professional development. Go into every job with a plan as to how you will acquire the skills necessary for your dream career. Remember that you are the average of your five closest friends, surround yourself with people who will push you up not pull you down.”

Ondrej Krehel, Founder and CTO of Lifars

“At the end, do not forget: you are driving your destiny, no one else. Choices you make have consequences that may not be visible now. Future success, however, is a collection of small steps while climbing to a Mount Everest of success – discipline of finishing of every step. Can you take next step every day?”

Michael E. Sander, Founder of Docket Alarm

“There is nothing wrong with taking a traditional job out of ‎undergrad. Take the opportunity to learn everything you can about the industry you are in, and spot all of the inefficiencies and ridiculous things that are going on in your company. It’s likely that many other companies experience the same issues, and if so, you may have just stumbled upon your first viable product. Also, learn how to code.”

Brian Sierakowski, Co-founder and CEO of TeamPassword

It’s reasonable to not have everything figured out. It’s easy to be concerned that you’re not going in the right direction, but, if you accept that is okay to not know your exact destination, you can relax and get some really cool experience along the way.

Jeffery, Xun Liu, Founder of Panjury 

“Don’t belief the myth that if you want to make a lot of money you have to be an entrepreneur. The most important thing is to find a place that allows you to develop your passions and become great at them – whether this is by starting your own company or working in someone else’s.”

Randhir Hebbar, Co-founder of Convergytics

“Identify interest areas / clubs upfront and take the leadership role in them. Trying to lead peer-groups and succeeding is not only fulfilling and fun, but can also be a great experience for what you will need to do later on in Corporate Life.”

Oren Bass, Co-founder of Pave

“Surround yourself with trusted advisors — whether it’s family, friends, colleagues or mentors — and work with purpose.”

James Garvey, Co-founder and CEO of Self Lender

“Before accepting a job at a company, perform a deep level of due diligence on both your new boss and the company. Everyone has a different moral compass. It’s important that your core values align with your colleagues and your employer. Working with smart, ethical, and hardworking people is really important for future success.”

Bill Fish, Founder and President of ReputationManagement.com

“Your first job is not your last job. The key is to learn as much as you possibly can in the business world in your first year, and then make your decision from there.”

Madelaine D’Angelo, Founder and CEO of Arthena

“Things will not always come easily, and you have to be prepared for that. Always remember that just because you’ve experienced failure doesn’t make you a failure.”

Carl Mazzanti, Founder and CEO of eMazzanti Technologies

“Choose an employer who provides ongoing opportunity to help you learn and increase your knowledge and skills. This could be through peer to peer learning, ongoing online or offline training and or any other method. Know that the better you are for the firm, the better you will be for their customers, and that the mutual investment you make in each other will always pay off.”

Sean Dudayev, Founder and Director of Marketing of Insure Chance

“Stick to what you know and develop that skill. Avoid the trap of “doing what you love.” Eventually even the most passionate of projects becomes a job. Anything you do will require a bit of something you don’t necessarily enjoy. The key to be happy at your work is to be good at it. So don’t let all those years of education go to waste. You’d be surprised how far you can go with laser like focus. It’s won’t always be pleasant, but it provides results, and results bring joy.”

Jessie Deye, Co-founder and CEO of Gild Collective

“Don’t pay attention to your degree. I have a B.S. in Molecular Biology but I’m running a startup in the DIY and in-home party space. What’s important is your passion for learning. You don’t have to know everything, but you have to be willing to fight like hell to figure it out.”

Ben Treanor, Founder and Managing Director of Old English Company

“There’s no set path so don’t stress out – I felt that I had to know exactly what I wanted to do after graduating, however I didn’t have a clue. I put a lot of unnecessary stress on myself because of this. I think very few know what it is that they want to do after graduating.”

Tina Tran Neville, Co-founder and CEO of Calolo

“Be good to people – It’s a small world. And the deeper into business I get, the smaller the world gets. Be kind. Be grateful. Be humble. You never know who you will work with.”

Brandon Seymour, Founder and CEO of Beymour Consulting

“Take inventory of the things you look for in an ideal work environment and factor that in when considering career opportunities. Even if you’re making six figures right out of college, chances are you won’t last long if you don’t enjoy what you do.”

Erin Zaikis, Founder of Sundara

“If you get a job that doesn’t thrill you, realize that there are always ways to impress your manager and go above and beyond. Wish your organization was a little more charity minded? Set up a volunteering day after work and invite your coworkers. Interested in social media? Come up with some sample Facebook and Twitter posts that might boost your company’s brand and submit them to the boss. Take the initiative and you might end up really impressing your coworkers.”

Sandie Luna, Co-founder and Director of BD of PUNTO Space

“Consider your natural talents vs. what you are passionate about. The two don’t always match up. If they don’t, figure out a way to marry the two. Consider not ignoring either. If you can figure out how to do this, you’ll have a unique way to follow your dreams.”

Patrick Rice, Founder and CEO of Lumidatum

“Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are big companies and small companies, industries that have been around for centuries and ones invented yesterday, keep trying your hand at different variables until you find something that really resonates with you.”

Todd Horton, Founder and CEO of KangoGift

“Find a mentor. I wish I had a more experienced professional offering me advice at each career juncture. Someone who can answer the questions around “should I take this job,” “should I go to grad school”? Be proactive to seek out mentors.”

Jonathan Kendall, President and CEO of Succeed Fast

“Learn to sell. It is no secret that selling is still the fastest way to earn success in life. But many of us have to overcome the Fear and Anxiety. It’s worth it. Nothing happens without the happy clients buying your product and services.”

Winthrop Jackman, Founder and Executive Director of Limulus Systems

“Do something you are passionate about: any job has it’s highs and lows, so if you aren’t passionate about the job at the start, the lows will feel that much lower.”

Sioux Messinger, Founder and CEO of Cream of the Crop Leaders

“Approach challenges rather than avoid them. Doing so actually creates confidence, and results in a virtuous confidence cycle which builds upon itself. Taking healthy risks is empowering.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls

“Finishing college is not the end of your education, you will be a student for the rest of your life so never stop learning new things. Your education is just starting to get really interesting and the grades don’t matter anymore. Be a sponge for knowledge & enjoy the learning process.”

 

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Have some of your own career advice for millennials? Let us know at community@closeriq.com

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Senior Marketing Manager @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.