Jobs and the Future of Work

Browse more, take your space, know how you thrive: 9 leaders from Microsoft, Intel, IKEA and more share advice for new grads

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Graduates at their graduation ceremony

Graduates have a lot to learn as they step out on their career paths Image: Photo by Josh Balerite Acol on Unsplash

Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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  • This year's crop of new graduates will build careers like none before them.
  • 9 global leaders - in recruiting, tech, leadership development and more - pass on useful advice for those in the class of 2024 looking to follow in their footsteps.

Today's graduates will live longer, face faster cycles of technological change and drive careers like we've never seen. How can they get started on the right foot? Leaders from top companies, such as Microsoft, Intel and more, share the advice that has shaped them – and the tips they wish they’d known sooner.


Make time for mastery

Sander van't Noordende is the CEO of Randstad, a leading global recruiting firm based in the Netherlands. He has espoused the same timeless advice to those new in their roles for three decades.

In part, he tells them to take initiative, but also to do “more or better than the expectation.” It could please your boss, but more critically, he says, you'll enjoy the work more and get more out of the project.

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Microsoft President Brad Smith agrees. The first days in your career, he says, are a time "frankly, to work hard and try to be a perfectionist. Do the extra draft of whatever it is you're writing to get it right. It's a time to invest great pride in your work.” These standards will serve you as you develop in your profession and grow into larger roles down the line where you'll be shaping expectations.

"Great organizations," he says, "always consist of great people who work together and believe in a common mission and are committed to quality. And that is really a professional quality for whatever the profession happens to be."


Browse. Don't doubt yourself

If Annette Mosman, the CEO of pension investor APG, could talk to the 18-year-old version of herself, she’d tell that girl to worry less. She'd also tell that girl that if she ever fell, she’d get right up and that there’s no reason to listen to inner voices of doubt.

Not letting worries stall you can help you dig into what you really want and give you the time to browse and discover what you like best. “What is your dream?” she tells graduates to ask themselves. “Have that dialogue with yourself.”


Get to know yourself

Prioritize understanding how you work best, how you thrive and what you truly want, says INGKA Group’s Global People and Culture Manager Ulrika Biesèrt.

“Who are you for real? Are you trying to be yourself at the greatest extent? Because, when you start to play a role, your energy's leaking.”

Who are you for real? When you start to play a role, your energy's leaking.”

— INGKA Group’s Global People and Culture Manager, Ulrika Biesèrt.

INGKA Group’s Global People and Culture Manager, Ulrika Biesèrt.

This investment will strengthen the decisions you make down the line. “I think to build up yourself, to feel good about yourself, to build strengths within yourself, to find your values and how you can navigate yourself. is the biggest gift you can give yourself. And then you will also take, I believe, better decisions because you will take decisions based on what you are, what you need.

"If you get those habits mastered early in your career, they will serve you so well for the rest of your life.”

INGKA Group’s Global People and Culture Manager, Ulrika Biesèrt
INGKA Group’s Global People and Culture Manager, Ulrika Biesèrt Image: Ingka Group

Take your space

Biesèrt's mother gave her and her sisters career-shaping advice when she said "Take the space." She'd stress: "If you don't take the space, someone else will take it and don't allow that.”

Biesèrt found this reminder powerful throughout her career, especially early on, while sitting in management meetings or when she was the only female in a room. “I've always had that in my head. Take your space and don't excuse yourself. I think that is very good advice for young people.”

Build your circle of advisors

Rishi Khosla is the CEO of OakNorth, a digital commercial bank with a special mentorpreneurship programme at the London School of Economics, providing a range of advisors and resources to help a new generation of business leaders maximize their potential.

Says Khosla, mentors "help someone think through -- decompose almost -- the thought, the question, the dynamic."

In his mind, a great mentor is like a great board member -- not necessarily there to tell you what to do, but to add a key voice you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. These trusted partners can help support you and run through the thought process with you for your next big decision.

As you consider potential mentors, prioritize the different perspective this person will give you. The best advisors aren’t always the biggest names, Khosla stresses, but they must have high believability in the area where you would like to grow most.

Rishi Khosla, CEO and Founder, OakNorth
Rishi Khosla, CEO and Founder, OakNorth Image: WEF/Michael Calabrò

Make the most of facetime

If you have an office to go into, spend some time there. Khosla acknowledges that advocating for the office might be unpopular in a time where work is increasingly remote. But if you're in the first stages of your career, being in person can help you understand your organization and teammates in a way that's hard to do on Teams and Slack.

It can give you a window into the ways people across your team approach problem-solving, priorities, projects and tough conversations, helping you build out your own work toolkit. “That serendipity which exists with that human interaction is just so, so critical to learning,” he says.

Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith, also stresses the importance of spending time observing your team. “Watch them. Watch how they interact with each other or watch what works. Watch what doesn't work. Hone your professional skills.”

Build trust and relationships

While technologies will change, your connections with your team, your bosses and your customers are paramount, says Noordende at Randstad. “I think that personal connections and your network is ultimately a very important differentiator in a successful career.”

You can forge this trust by simply doing what you say you will do, says Madison O’Brien, with engagement platform Teamgage. Key, she says, is “focusing really hard on making things work, asking a lot of questions along the way and keeping those curiosities open.”

Learn, unlearn, learn

This generation of new graduates will face a dizzying pace of change. However, Christy Pambianchi, Intel’s Chief People Officer, reminds us that these young people are better prepared for this change than any other generation. These digital natives have been natural tinkerers their whole lives, teaching themselves a range of new skills from simple Instagram and YouTube videos.

She stresses that new graduates shouldn't be afraid to seek out a range of resources in their first roles - from chats with colleagues to formal training programmes - to build new capabilities and tackle new opportunities.

Olajumoke Adekeye, the founder of Nigeria’s Young Business Agency, agrees. she drives an employment accelerator in Nigeria that has helped thousands of young people get positioned for better jobs and opportunities. She says it will be especially important for new grads to keep pace with the advances of AI and understand how it will impact their particular sector of interest. Shereminds new graduates that they can think beyond online courses and seek out experts at tech hubs, accelerators and incubators to stay current.

Olajumoke Adekeye, the founder of Nigeria’s Young Business Agency
Olajumoke Adekeye, the founder of Nigeria’s Young Business Agency Image: World Economic Forum

"My advice is not for young people to take on AI as their, primary work or subject of interest," she says. "But it's going to be very important to have a breadth of understanding across different sectors. And it's going to start by doing the basics."

Make time for masteryBrowse. Don't doubt yourselfGet to know yourselfTake your spaceBuild your circle of advisorsMake the most of facetimeBuild trust and relationshipsLearn, unlearn, learn

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