Teenagers have named Apple CEO Steve Jobs the entrepreneur they admire most. In a recent Junior Achievement survey, Jobs beat out a list of high profile celebrity entrepreneurs including Oprah Winfrey. Steve Jobs has plenty to teach teens and young adults, many of whom are facing the worst job climate in decades. Here are five life and work lessons Steve Jobs would offer young people today as they enter a tight job market and an uncertain future.
Follow Your Heart, Not the Joneses. From his earliest interviews it was clear that Steve Jobs was more motivated by creating great products than by how much money he would make selling those products. Jobs once said that “being the richest man in the cemetery” didn’t matter to him; rather “going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.” Far too many people are unsatisfied and unsuccessful in their careers because they chose a path that made their neighbors or friends “rich.” Typically, however, followers are too late to cash in. Their life is a never-ending stream of disappointments and frustrations. “You’ve got to find what you love,” Jobs told Stanford graduates in 2005. “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. Don’t settle. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. You somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
Make a Dent in the Universe. Choose to be world-class at whatever path you choose. Steve Jobs is said to have a “reality distortion field” around him, meaning he has an ability to convince nearly everyone of everything. This “RDF” stems from a commitment to change the world. People seek meaning in their lives and when they meet someone who taps into this basic human craving, they find it intoxicating. In 1983, on a balcony overlooking New York’s Central Park, Steve Jobs turned to then PepsiCo president John Sculley, who Jobs was trying to recruit to join Apple, and asked, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Sculley would later write that the question would hit him like a punch to the gut. You will never inspire anyone unless you’re inspired yourself. Find something that inspires you to pursue higher levels of achievement.
Sell the Benefit. Potential employers don’t care about you as much as they care about solving their problems. Steve Jobs never introduces a new product without a clear explanation of the problem it solves. For example, when he introduced the iPhone in January, 2007, he spent time explaining the limitations of the existing SmartPhones. These limitations included a stylus which was awkward and tended to get lost and the keyboard which took up one-third of the space on the phone. The iPhone, Jobs argued, would solve those problems. Young people should approach job interviews the same way. The fact that you graduated with honors doesn’t tell a recruiter how you’re going to solve the company’s problems. Do research on the company, its competitors and its challenges. Make the connection between your accomplishments in school and how that experience will help the company achieve greater success.
Articulate a Twitter-Friendly Vision. Steve Jobs has a vision for every product he introduces. The vision can easily fit in a 140-character Twitter post. For example, when Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in 2008, he simply said, “It’s the world’s thinnest notebook.” If that’s all you knew about the computer, it would tell you a lot. As a young professional, your personal brand is the most important brand of all. Treat your brand like an Apple product and ask yourself, “If I had to describe my brand in a Twitter post, what would I say?” For example, long before I could claim Fortune 500 companies as clients, my business cards read: “The communications coach for the world’s most admired brands.” Those sixty-one characters gave my brand a vision. What vision do you have for your personal brand?
Master Life’s Most Important Skill. Steve Jobs is considered the greatest corporate storyteller on the world stage. His keynote presentations are hot tickets and leave his audience with a sense of awe and excitement. Communicating the vision behind his brand is one of Steve Jobs’ greatest gifts. But he works at it. Jobs spends hours and hours rehearsing every facet of his presentations. He makes it look effortless but that polish comes after weeks of grueling practice. Every day, millions of PowerPoint presentations are made and every day, millions of people watching those presentations are bored to death. Master speaking and presentation skills to set yourself apart.
For more than three decades, Steve Jobs has been creating products that enrich people’s lives. But in some ways, his greatest achievement could be in what he has taught us about work and life: expect excellence from yourself, create great experiences for your customers, and follow your heart.
©2009 Carmine Gallo, author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience
Carmine Gallo, author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, is a presentation, media-training, and communication-skills coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is an author and columnist for Businessweek.com and a keynote speaker and seminar leader who has appeared on CNBC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC.com, BNET, RedBook, Forbes.com, and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, as well as many other media outlets. Gallo lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is a former vice president for a global, top-ten public relations firm. For more information please visit www.carminegallo.com.