22 Top Pieces of Career Advice from Stanford Business Professors

November 17, 2015

4:00 pm

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business consistently ranks as one of the top graduate business schools in the world. Last year, the college beat out Harvard Business School to earn the top spot in Poet & Quants’ annual rankings. And there’s good reason: Stanford produces some of the top leaders in the business world, especially when it comes to the world of startups. With an alumni base including the likes of Vinod Khosla from the top-ranked Khosla Ventures to former eBay CEO Johan Donahue, the school’s produced a lot of great talent – and that, is in no small part due Stanford’s great cast of professors and visiting lecturers.

In a recent Quora post, Uber’s head of product partnerships, Matt Wyndowe provided a look at his own experience at Stanford GSB, and shared the 22 most notable pieces of career advice he learn from his favorite professors and lecturers while he was a student. Here are the 22 things he points out as a response to the query “What is some good general career advice?”:

Successful People Listen

You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio. You learn more when you listen than when you talk.

Pareto Principle

Always look for the 80/20. 80 percent of the value is delivered by 20 percent of the product/service. Focus on that 20 percent.

The Importance of Passion

When Warren Buffet finds people to run his business, his key criteria is to find somebody who would do the job whether they would get paid or not.

Be Likable

People who are liked have the wind at their backs. So be liked.

Prepare for the Unknown

Just when you think you’ve got it 100% right, you can be taken down.

Make Your Own Luck

People who are lucky make their own luck. And you only make your own luck by staying in the game.

Put on “The Cloak” of Leadership

A large part of your role is to inspire and motivate your employees, and people will look to you for confidence. If you were on a plane with engine problems, you don’t want the pilot to say “I am exploring a number of options and hope that…”, you want him to say, “I will do whatever it takes to land this plane.”

Know Your Options

The outcome of a negotiation is largely a function of your alternatives. Know your next best option.

Recruit Great Teams

You will only be as good as the people you will recruit. Media & culture celebrate individuals, but teams succeed.

Be Succinct

The best scientists can explain complex issues in simple terms. Pretty good scientists can explain complex issues in complex terms.

A’s Hire A’s. B’s Hire C’s

Always strive to hire people better than you are.

Be a Clear, Fair Manager

For example, when speaking to a business unit leader that isn’t succeeding, say: “I want a strategy to win in 1-page and the objectives we need to hit each quarter to reach them.”

Look at Opportunities for Change

When considering a business opportunity, look for change. What inflection point are you taking advantage of? Without change, there is rarely opportunity.

Keep Selling

When in doubt, just keep selling. Not a bad default strategy to communicate to your team.

Be Humble

The markets are brutal to those who are arrogant.

Know Your Weaknesses

Understand what you don’t do well. Surround yourself with people and resources that can do these things well.

Practice Self-Discipline

Set targets, have timetables, have clear unambiguous goals. Life passes quickly – days, weeks, months, years, a lifetime. “Regret for the things we did, can be tempered by time. It is regret for the things that we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Be Yourself

In group settings, you usually serve the group best by thoughtfully expressing exactly what you are thinking. Not necessarily what the group wants to hear.

Learn to Relax

Often overachievers are passionate about many things. Yet it’s important to learn not to always care so much. Try being indifferent to things that aren’t that important.

Be Trustworthy

You’ve got to give trust to get trust. Treat people as you would want to be treated. Sometimes people take advantage of you. That’s fine, don’t do business with them again.

Shoot for the Moon

To be successful, don’t follow the pack. If you want to win, don’t hedge.

Be a Good Human

From finance and management professor Joel C. Peterson:  “Appreciate the people you work with, take care of your investors, celebrate successes along the way, communicate lavishly – good news and bad news, tell the truth, don’t try to maximize everything, and stop to smell the roses. Life is pretty short and most of what really matters doesn’t happen at the office.”


Read the full post on Quora, “Jobs and Careers: What is some good general career advice?”

(H/T Quartz)

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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