Faculty Advice for Graduates
Harvard Business School faculty members offer words of wisdom for graduating students as they head out to make a difference in the world.
19 May 2017  

As Harvard Business School students prepare for Commencement on Thursday, May 25, we asked members of the faculty what those students should keep front-of-mind as they head out to make a difference in the world. Their responses are offered below:

“Think about what is important to you and to those whom you care about. Use that input to develop a personal value proposition that drives you to craft a life filled with purpose and meaning. Be intentional about living your value proposition: build competencies, grasp opportunities, and envelop yourself in relationships that empower you to deliver true value to your world and to the people who are important to you. Google’s original mantra, 'Don’t be evil,' sets too low a bar for your value proposition. Be good, be kind, be generous, be a role model, be someone upon whom others depend, be a voice for those who are silenced. Use your life to inspire the next generation, to raise up those beneath you, to make a difference. Leave your legacy in the lives of the people who have been touched and moved by you.”

“As you start the next chapter of your professional life, do not lose sight of the fact that you will be the ones making and shaping the organizations that you are about to join. Through your work and commitment, you will have the opportunity to make them not only more effective but also more inclusive and more socially responsible. I wish you all the best and I look forward to keeping in touch and celebrating your work!”

“Nearly all important decisions in your life will have some aspect of a risk-reward trade-off. With that frame in mind, you should never take on risks that lack sufficient upside as defined by you. Taking risks in life for risk’s sake is foolish, as is maximizing someone else’s vision of what makes up a large enough reward. Solve accordingly.”

“Loving one's work is a function of doing something that's meaningful to you, not a reason for it. The cost of something is how much of your life you have to exchange for it. Beware trading big swaths of time—the only variable in your career that's entirely outside your control—to do work that doesn't meet that standard.”

“Of all the currencies that you spend in life, the only currency that you can never replace is time. Money is a cheap thing. It is easy to replace. The investment of time requires spending the scarcest of all your resources. And once you’ve spent that second or that week or that year, you can never recapture that time again. Don’t allow yourself to drift into a humdrum life, where you can’t remember what you did or why you did it. Do things that you care about. Do things that are intense. Do things that are truly worth your time.”

“I hope that you will all be humble and be good. Your experience here at HBS makes you different from most people you will interact with, but it doesn’t necessarily make you better. Don’t allow that difference to separate you from others. Lots of people have achieved great things in their own way. Also, while you are pursuing excellence in your professional lives, be sure to choose to be good in your personal lives—be a good friend, a good neighbor, a good son or daughter, a good partner/spouse. Be proud of what you do and also who you are.”

“When I started graduate school, the university president told my entering class that there would come a time when each of us would doubt his or her ability and be tempted to lose hope. I'm not sure any of us believed her at the time. But, she was right, and when I reached that point in the second year of my doctoral program, I remembered that she had not only warned us of it but also told us that facing and seeing your way through such a challenge was an integral part of our development. Knowing this gave me enough confidence to push through, and I've always been grateful for that. I suspect most HBS graduates will face a similarly challenging point in their career, perhaps not too long after graduating. I hope that they, too, will realize that such moments make—rather than break—careers, even if they lead to a change of trajectory or a new path.”


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