From College to Career: How did I get here?

Recently, I came across the video below, which features a commencement speech delivered by Apple Founder Steve Jobs to a graduating class at Stanford University in 2005. The theme of his speech, “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” was especially intriguing and I certainly wanted to find out more. So as I watched, I also jotted down a few notes.

I’m kind-of a sucker for really good commencement speeches. Truth be told, I can hardly remember what remarks Smokey Robinson gave when he stood before my graduating class at Howard University in ’05. (It was hot. And I honestly had hoped he’d break into song. But he didn’t. Shallow, I know.)

As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but wonder what the folks in the audience were doing at this moment. Had they remembered what Jobs shared that day? And were they on the path they had hoped to enter after leaving the commencement field? Are they now wondering in bewilderment, “How in the world did I get here?”

There’s something to be said about a remarkable commencement speech — one that speaks to the core of a listener’s heart while offering perspective on this journey called ‘Career.’ Jobs’ talk has gotten more than 3.2 million viewers on YouTube. 

Commencement speeches delivered by Oprah Winfrey, Randy Pausch and Will Ferrell also rank high as viewer favorites, along with remarks given by U.S. President Barack Obama.

If there’s one thing for sure about commencement speeches, they most always are positive in tone with a little humor and sensitivity mixed in. I always seem to benefit from such talks and capture a nugget of savory inspiration that propels me forward despite the cloudy prospect of success or bumpy road ahead.

Connecting the dots

Among his remarks, Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. . . believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even if it leads you off the well-worn path.”

Jobs dropped out of college 18 months in, and nearly 10 years passed before he sold the first Macintosh computer and co-founded Apple. A year later, he was fired from Apple. Getting fired, he said, was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to him because it freed him to start anew. With his creative juices churning once again, Jobs created Pixar and NeXT before returning to Apple.

You never know where life will take you. And as displayed in Jobs’ testimony, no matter where you’ve landed there’s a lesson to be learned, an opportunity to grasp, or a decision to be made. In short, don’t get too caught up in whatever stage of life you’re in right now because if you keep at it something better, more challenging, or more fulfilling is sure to follow.

Don’t lose faith

“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick, but don’t lose faith,” Jobs said. In the meantime, he added, remember that life is short.

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it by living someone else’s life,” he said. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow know what you truly want to become.”

It’s important to note that not everyone’s life will result in a glowing example of what it means to face a career let-down then later earn millions. Depending on your career path or industry, your ‘success’ could look drastically different from that of Jobs’ definition of ‘success.’ But perseverance, no matter what the challenge, always wins.

When faced with rejection, where do the chips fall? Do you fall apart or into a deep depression? Or do you pick up the pieces, lift your chin and forge ahead with renewed vision?

“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did,” Jobs said. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet. Keep looking. And don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

Watch the entire video clip below.

For further discussion

Have you settled for a less-than-satisfying career or mediocre life?  Do you have dreams that have gone unfulfilled? Have you stopped reaching for career bliss because you’ve sunken into a cloud of doubt?

If you feel stuck, what’s really holding you back? And if you’ve moved passed rejection and self-doubt, how did you push through? Looking back on your own graduation, what do you remember most and do feel you’ve reached some level of success in your life?

Share your thoughts below with the Career Pioneer community!



  • Rebecca Doyle

    Hey Emily,

    Hope all is going well with your blog. I left you a blog award at Becks and the City:



    • Emily Brown

      Hi Rebecca! Great to hear from you. Thanks! :-) I’ll check it out. Hope you’re doing well too.