Bill Gates’ decision to drop out of Harvard after only three semesters to focus on building Microsoft ultimately paid off, but that doesn’t mean the tech founder and philanthropist doesn’t regret his decision on some level.
Invited to give this year’s commencement address at Northern Arizona University (NAU) to graduates in the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences and the College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, Gates shared the life advice he wishes he was “told at the graduation I never had”.
Broken down into five topics, Gates touched on various topics including career pivots, work-life balance, and leaning into your limitations. Here’s what he had to say.
It’s okay to change your mind
When you finish college it might seem like the first internship or job security will dictate your entire career trajectory, but Gates suggests that a successful career doesn’t have to follow a straight path and a squiggly career can be just as successful.
“You’re probably facing a lot of pressure right now to make the right decisions about your career. It might feel like those decisions are permanent. They’re not,” he said. “What you do tomorrow—or for the next ten years—does not have to be what you do forever.”
That applies to your career and your grad program. Whether you already attended your first year of the program or you’re still considering how to write a grad school resume, you can change your mind.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Whatever stage you’re at in your career, knowing your professional limitations is essential in order to grow and develop. As such, always ask for help.
“At some point in your career, you will find yourself facing a problem you cannot solve on your own. When that happens, don’t panic. Take a breath. Force yourself to think things through. And then find smart people to learn from.”
For grad programs, that means submitting applications for support. Check out our guide for grad school scholarships. It covers requirements and advice for your best chance at earning an award. We also found more specific scholarships for women.
Make the world a better place
Whether he’s working on the latest tech innovation or environmental challenge, problem-solving is at the heart of Gates’ M.O. and he urged the crowd to seek out a career that is focused on finding practical solutions.
“New industries and companies are emerging every day that will allow you to make a living by making a difference. And advances in science and technology have made it easier than ever to make a big impact,” he offered.
It’s never too early to grow your network
While you might think more seasoned professionals are the people you should try and network with, Gates believes that networking with your peers now is essential for future success.
“They are your network. Your future co-founders and colleagues. Your best sources of support, information, and advice,” he elaborated. “The only thing more valuable than what you walk offstage with today is who you walk onstage with.”
There’s more to life than work
Despite admitting to monitoring when his staff arrived at work and left the office in the evening, not believing in vacation days and frequently working a seven-day week in his early career, Gates’ attitude to work-life balance has softened in recent years.
“You are not a slacker if you cut yourself some slack,” he stated.
Expanding on this he added: “as I got older—and especially once I became a dad—I realized there is more to life than work… Take a break when you need to. Take it easy on the people around you when they need it, too.”
So feel free to splurge a little on back-to-school electronics. Take some extra time with a fiction book before diving back into the research section. Spend some time with the people you love.
Ready to start your career off on the right foot? The GradCafe Job Board is the perfect place to start your search. It features thousands of internship and entry-level opportunities for recent grads, in companies including the three below.
Graduate Internship – Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering (MS/PhD), Intel, Hillsboro
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2024 Summer Intern – Frito-Lay HQ Supply Chain & Engineering – Undergrad, PepsiCo, Plano
The goal of Frito Lay’s Summer Intern program is to provide students with the opportunity to leverage their academic understanding in a real-world, business-driven environment. During this internship experience, you will have exposure to a variety of components of the Frito Lay Supply Chain and Engineering organization. At the end of the summer, interns report to the leadership team on the key business points learned from the internship experience. The position requires a self-directed, motivated individual prepared for a fast-paced environment. Get more information here.
For thousands more internship and entry-level opportunities visit the GradCafe Job Board today