If I Were 22: What Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?

May 5, 2015

Think back to when you were 22. Perhaps you couldn't help but worry: "How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me?" Or maybe you debated: "Is grad school (or a gap year) right for me?" Or maybe you secretly panicked, wondering: "Is this what a quarter-life crisis feels like?"

In our latest series on LinkedIn, “If I Were 22,” we asked some of the world’s top voices in business to share what they’d do differently — and keep the same. More than 50 Influencers dusted off old yearbooks and dug into their archives for vintage photos (and some embarrassing stories) from their 20s.

In honor of graduation season, LinkedIn also rounded up inspiring quotes from Influencers and other notable personalities. From Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington to Alanis Morissette and David Letterman, check out the 2015 LinkedIn Yearbook to see what some of the world’s most successful professionals wish they knew when they were 22.

YOUR TURN: What do you wish you knew at 22? If you're in your 20s, tell us: What are your hopes — and fears — about the future?

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Here's what some Influencers would tell their 22-year-old selves:

huffington

Stop rushing already.

Arianna Huffington is on a quest to change the definition of success: “Like airlines, we routinely overbook ourselves, fearful of any unused capacity, confident that we can fit everything in. We fear that if we don’t cram as much as possible into our day, we might miss out on something fabulous, important, special, or career advancing.”

For those who are just starting out in their careers, Huffington hopes success will no longer be defined “by who works the longest hours, who goes the longest without a vacation, who sleeps the least, who responds to an email at midnight or five in the morning.”

Who’s with her?

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Orman

Give yourself time — and space — to figure things out.

Suze Orman spent seven years working as a waitress before finding her path at age 30. Be kind to yourself, the personal finance expert urges. Taking the longer route, however, isn’t “a license for laziness,” Orman writes. “I worked, and worked hard, in my 20s. And I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had during that time. But if there is a 22-year-old out there reading this and feeling adrift, I have this to say to you: Been there, done that.”

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Webb

Find an open door, and run through it.

Maynard Webb’s world was upended as a boy when his father died. “He didn’t have any life insurance, and my mom had to go back to work to support five kids,” Webb writes. “We lost the air conditioner, hot water, and TV, and we also lost the opportunity to dream about what could be as we were too caught up trying to get by.”

After graduating from Florida Atlantic University, Webb landed a job as a security guard at IBM; that 22-year-old had no way of knowing he’d one day become the COO of eBay or the chairman of Yahoo.

Looking back, Webb wishes every 22-year-old knew this when fighting against the odds: “If you are willing to dream and then work hard and execute well, you can achieve more than you ever imagined.”

WebbquoteDiazOrtiz

Don’t do what everyone tells you to do.

Burned out at 22? Just ask high achievers like Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who crammed an undergraduate and a master’s degree into four years at Stanford.

Ignoring the well-meaning advice of everyone around her, Diaz-Ortiz recharged by moving to Mexico for a year; she then hit 19 countries in 9 months. “I wasn’t making much, and I certainly wasn’t prioritizing money — I was prioritizing freedom,” she writes of this nomadic time.

P.S. Diaz-Ortiz would later find her way to Twitter as employee #51.

DiazOrtizquote

branson

Everyone deserves a second chance.

“If I were 22, I would go out all night partying and not always think about the consequences of my actions,” writes Richard Branson, who started Virgin Records at 22. “I am not the person I was 42 years ago. I am not even the person I was two years ago. We all change, we all learn, we all grow. To continually punish somebody for the mistakes they made in the past is not just illogical, it is plain wrong.”

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In the coming weeks, Influencers and members will share more great stories from when they were just starting out:

  • Deepak Chopra on fainting at the sight of blood on the first day of his surgical rotation (and what got him through it)
  • HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank on landing his dream job in Hollywood — and hating it
  • Tara Hunt on being a 22-year-old single mom of a toddler (What would she tell that young woman now? “Calm down, you’re doing just fine.”)
  • Richard A. Moran, president of Menlo College, on wondering whether that college sweetheart “is the one that got away  — or the one who I am glad I got rid of?”

Join the conversation: What do you wish someone had told you when you were 22? What would you do differently — and keep the same?

If you are 22(ish), we want to hear your stories too. Use #IfIWere22 somewhere in the body — not the headline — of your post.

Start writing.

Graphics by Jacqueline Zaccor/LinkedIn

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