Is "Be the best in the world" good advice to give someone at the start of their career?

Next month, I'll have someone join by team for whom Google will be their first job out of college. In preparation, I was pulling together some documents and tutorials and started to type out a preamble for the document.


I realized its been a while since I've had someone who was starting their career on my team, and realized I'd never actually given any advice with that in mind in particular.

In fact most of my advice was generally around how to succeed in the role tactically and how to enjoy the job and Google.

I paused from writing my dos and don'ts to think about higher-level principles, but I realized the piece of advice that resonated most with me was something I'd read in Sam Altman's blog post a few months ago.

"Aim to be the best in the world at what you're doing"

This is great advice for anyone at any stage in their career, but I think is particularly valuable and clarifying to someone starting out.

It makes you think about what it means to be truly great at your job, and you start building on how to get there. Early in your career you can start thinking about longer-term strategies (try another role for a bit, plan jobs/projects etc.) to be truly amazing at what you want to do.

I'm putting it near the top of my list for this person. What do you think?

Comments

Chintan said…
I found some of the points from this quora answer (http://www.quora.com/What-were-the-best-things-you-learned-in-your-first-job/answer/Mark-Brimson) useful.
Eric Nehrlich said…
I think the advice to be the best is terrible advice for somebody starting out in their career. Googlers are way too competitive (as they were trained to be in school and college) and obsess about being the best already. When I was a people manager, I had to spend time de-programming my team to stop worrying about whether they were "on the right track" and "keeping up" in their career, and try to have them focus on what they were learning and the relationships they were building, as I feel those are far more lasting than the specific work. I actually wrote my own blog post on the topic at http://www.nehrlich.com/blog/2012/10/30/career-development-in-the-21st-century/ That's not saying people shouldn't work hard and do great work, but if your goal is "be the best in the world", then you're going to feel like a failure basically all the time, and that doesn't lead to great morale or even great work.

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