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Valuable Career Advice from Influential Executives

Seeking advice from an executive mentor can greatly aid corporate hopefuls in reaching their career goals.  However, in situations where incorporating a personal mentor may not be an option, it can be quite beneficial to personally research and consider the advice of established executives who have made an impact on their industry and the world at large.

What does it take to become a top executive of an organization?  How do successful executives achieve a healthy life/work balance? Moreover, what makes one employee stand out from the rest of the workforce?

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To answer some of these key questions, we’ve compiled tips from some of the current most influentially prominent executives in the U.S.

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Remember to go the extra mile.

Before becoming the Chairman of Paramount Pictures, Jeffrey Katzenberg set his career into motion as an assistant to executive producer David Picker, and then as an assistant to producer and former Paramount Chairman/CEO, Barry Diller. Jeffrey later worked for Disney from 1984 until 1994, subsequently teaming up with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to co-found DreamWorks SKG.

DreamWorks Animation was formed as a separate company in 2004, and Katzenberg became a leader in his industry by disseminating digital 3D film production. The company was later acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016.

The former CEO of DreamWorks Animation and Chairman of DreamWorks New Media believes that it doesn’t matter if a task is big or small. He explained that what is important is, “if you can do it just a little bit better than what is expected, you will be noticed and rewarded”.

Richard Branson

No setbacks, just learning curves. 

The Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group does not let failure derail him from his goals. He struggled in school due to dyslexia until he finally dropped out at the age of 16. Nonetheless, was able to create a magazine and later, a mail-order record company, called Virgin. He expanded the venture into a travel company, advancing into the airline business. After struggling financially and selling the record label to THORN EMI for $1 billion, he parlayed his funds to found Virgin Radio, which gave way to a second record company, known as V2.

Today, Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies in more than 30 countries. Branson’s businesses now include a train company, a mobile phone company, a luxury game reserve, and a space-tourism company, Virgin Galactic. Branson stated, “I have fun running all the Virgin businesses – so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

Tony Hsieh

Learn how to stand out.

The present CEO of Zappos was also the cofounder of LinkExchange which he sold to Microsoft in 1999 for $265 million. Hsieh is responsible for growing the company’s annual sales to more than $1 billion in gross merchandise.

According to Hsieh, “To Wow, you must differentiate yourself and do something above and beyond what’s expected.”

Mary Barra

Passion equals success.

Mary Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company. In 2016, she was named Forbes magazine’s “World’s Most Powerful Woman in Business” as well as number five among the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women”.

Barra’s advice for success is to do something you are passionate about. She said, “If you are doing something you are passionate about, you are just naturally going to succeed.”

Lloyd Blankfein

Work is important, but so are you. 

Lloyd Blankfein is the CEO of Goldman Sachs Group. He was born in the South Bronx and moved to Brooklyn “in search of a better life.” When he was in high school, he worked as a lifeguard and sold hot dogs and soda at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class, earning a scholarship to Harvard University where he later graduated with a degree in Law.

What is Blankfein’s tip for success? “Focus on becoming a complete person.” He went on to explain that everyone should, of course, focus on the content of his or her job. However, he emphasized that the work is not the end but a means to an end. To young people, his simple advice is, “Chill out.”

Larry Page

Always exceed expectations. 

Larry Page co-founded Google along with now computer scientist and internet entrepreneur, Sergey Brin. Together, they developed “a search engine that listed results according to the popularity of the pages.” Google is the world’s most popular search engine with an average of almost 6 billion searches daily in 2013 alone. The Co-Founder of Google is now CEO of Alphabet, a parent company that oversees Google and other subsidiaries.

His advice for success is, “Always deliver more than expected.”

John Donahoe

Don’t exchange a happy life for a good career.

Before becoming the Chairman of the Board at Paypal, John Donahoe was the President and CEO of eBay.

His advice for success, especially to students, is “to invest in themselves outside of their careers”. He encourages them to build “a great life, not just a great career”. Donahue acknowledges that there is no need “to choose between” your children and your career or “advancement over personal health”.  Rather, try to extract as much out of life as you possibly can, keeping an eye out for innovative ideas and resolutions along the way.

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The Takeaway

As we can see, the most successful executives are focused on giving more than expected. They also deemphasize the fear of failure, and instead, work to develop a full life beyond their career. They did not give a foolproof formula for success but rather pointed out that passion and hard work go hand in hand in achieving your goals, which will ultimately lead to success, as long as you persevere.

As Colin Powell said, “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

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