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Richard Branson and 21 other successful people share their best career advice for 20-somethings

If clichés like “follow your passion,” “give 110%,” and “be true to yourself” just aren’t cutting it for you anymore, we’ve got some fresh takes on how to get a head start on your career.

From “don’t work too hard” to “relax,” here’s some of the best — and oftentimes unconventional — advice for people in their 20s from some really successful people:

Richard Branson: Never look back in regret -- move on to the next thing.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Richard Branson.

Richard Branson's mother taught him that.

'The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,' The Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. 'I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses -- so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.'

Sheryl Sandberg: There is no straight path to where you are going.

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Sheryl Sandberg.

'As Pattie Sellers of Fortune Magazine says, careers are not ladders but jungle gyms,' the Facebook COO wrote on Quora. 'You don't have to have it all figured out.'

Sheryl Sandberg recommends having a long-term, abstract dream to work towards in addition to a more concrete 18-month plan. The long-term plan allows you to dream big while the short-term plan forces you to push yourself and think about how you want to get better over the next year and a half.

'Ask yourself how you can improve and what you're afraid to do,' she said, adding 'that's usually the thing you should try.'

Warren Buffett: Exercise humility and restraint.

Alex Wong/Getty
Warren Buffett.

In a 2010 interview with Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said the best advice he ever received was from Berkshire Hathaway board-of-directors member Thomas Murphy. He told Buffett:

'Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow -- you don't give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow.'

During this year's Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, Buffett also told a curious seventh-grader that the key to making friends and getting along with coworkers is learning to change your behaviour as you mature by emulating those you admire and adopting the qualities they possess.

J.K. Rowling: Embrace failure.

J.K. Rowling.

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling children's book series 'Harry Potter,' knows a lot about achieving success -- and failure.

'I don't think we talk about failure enough,' Rowling told Matt Lauer on NBC's 'Today' show. 'It would have really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, 'You will fail. That's inevitable. It's what you do with it.''

Before Rowling became one of the wealthiest women in the world, she was a single mum living off welfare in the UK. She began writing about her now famous character, the young wizard Harry Potter, in Edinburgh cafes, and received 'loads' of rejections from book publishers when she first sent out the manuscript, The Guardian reports.

'An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless ... By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew,' Rowling said during a 2008 Harvard University commencement speech.

She went on to say that she considered her early failure a 'gift' that was 'painfully won,' since she gained valuable knowledge about herself and her relationships through the adversity.

Melanie Whelan: Get a job, any job

Melanie Whelan.

The CEO of SoulCycle believes new college grads should forget about doing what they think is expected of them and just get to work.

'Get a job and work hard,' she told The New York Times' Adam Bryant in an interview. 'You are going to learn a ton in whatever that job is, so don't stress too much about what it is or where it is. Just take a job and put your head down, work hard, raise your hand for anything anybody asks you to do.'

Melanie Whelan said it's important for young job seekers to live in the present rather than worry so much about where they're headed. The key is working as hard and learning as much as possible. When you do this, she said, good things will follow.

'A lot of people think in terms of 'should' -- I 'should' be a banker, I 'should' go to law school, I 'should' pursue what I studied in school.' This is a mistake, she told Bryant.

Steve Jobs: Don't just follow your passion but something larger than yourself.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Steve Jobs.

In a Business Insider article, Cal Newport, author of 'So Good They Can't Ignore You,' referenced Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, who recalled an exchange he had with Jobs shortly before he passed. Jobs reportedly told Isaacson:

Yeah, we're always talking about following your passion, but we're all part of the flow of history … you've got to put something back into the flow of history that's going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn't just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.

Suze Orman: With success comes unhelpful criticism -- ignore it.

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images
Suze Orman.

In a LinkedIn article about the best advice she ever received, motivational speaker, author, and CNBC host Suze Orman wrote that success has often made her a target of nasty criticism 'entirely disconnected from facts.' At first these attacks made her angry, but she eventually learned to ignore them.

'A wise teacher from India shared this insight: The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking,' she wrote.

'The sad fact is that we all have to navigate our way around the dogs in our career: external critics, competitors, horrible bosses, or colleagues who undermine. Based on my experience, I would advise you to prepare for the yapping to increase along with your success.'

Arianna Huffington: Don't work too hard.

Business Insider Video
Arianna Huffington.

In a LinkedIn post last year, The Huffington Post president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington revealed that she's often asked if young people pursuing their dreams should burn the candle at both ends?

'This couldn't be less true,' she writes. 'And for far too long, we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success.'

She says she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, 'Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.'

George Stephanopoulos: Relax.

Ray Tamarra/Getty
George Stephanopoulos.

'Almost nothing you're worried about today will define your tomorrow,' 'Good Morning America' co-anchor George Stephanopoulos
told personal finance website NerdWallet.

'Down the road, don't be afraid to take a pay cut to follow your passion. But do stash a few bucks in a 401(k) now.'

Marla Malcolm Beck: Remember that you won't end up where you start.

Kate Warren
Marla Malcolm Beck.

Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of Bluemercury, said in an interview with
Adam Bryant of The New York Times that she always reminds students that 'nobody ends up in the first job they choose out of college, so just find something that is interesting to you, because you tend to excel at things you're interested in. But just go do it. You have nothing to lose.'

Her other piece of advice: Go into tech. 'If you look at all the skill sets companies need, they involve a comfort level with technology,' she told Bryant.

T.J. Miller: Work harder than anyone else around you.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images
T.J. Miller.

T.J. Miller, comedian and star of HBO's 'Silicon Valley,' told personal finance website NerdWallet this is truly the formula to success. 'It worked for me, and I have mediocre talent and a horse jaw.'

Alexa von Tobel: Get up, dress up, and show up.

Business Insider
Alexa Von Tobel.

What Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and the author of New York Times bestseller 'Financially Fearless,' means is that it's important to wake up excited for what's coming, dress the part, and always show up ready to go.

'As a new hire, you will likely find yourself in tons of new situations, and it's up to you to figure out how to navigate them,' she wrote in an article for Business Insider.

'Remember that your manager is strapped for time, so know when to ask questions. Are you unsure of the objectives for an assignment? Asking her to clarify is crucial, since it's pretty hard to make the mark if you don't know where it even lies.

'On the flip side, avoid bombarding your manager with petty questions that could be answered by your peers or a quick Google search.'

Mark Bartels: Map out a timeline for yourself when you start a new job.

stumbleupon
Mark Bartels.

'We talk about budgets; we talk about planning your finances; but what a lot of people don't do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers,' StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels told Business Insider.

He said that lack of planning can be costly, both professionally and existentially, while having an agenda provides a metric for evaluating your success.

Salli Setta: Never eat lunch alone.

Red Lobster
Salli Setta.

Red Lobster president Salli Setta tells Business Insider it's important to get out from behind your screen at lunchtime because lunch is a prime networking opportunity.

The benefit of always having lunch plans with someone are two-fold: You can get information that will help you 'think about your job differently,' and you also get on your companion's radar.

'It isn't about saying 'hi, what are we going to talk about, let's talk about sports,'' Setta says. 'It's about identifying the object of this lunch in your mind' and going in armed with 'a couple of things that you want to ask, and a couple of things you want to share.'

Deepak Chopra: Embrace the wisdom of uncertainty.

Deepak Chopra.

In a LinkedIn post last year, Deepak Chopra, popular author and founder of The Chopra Foundation said he wished he embraced the wisdom of uncertainty at a younger age.

'At the outset of my medical career, I had the security of knowing exactly where I was headed,' he wrote. 'Yet what I didn't count on was the uncertainty of life, and what uncertainty can do to a person.'

'If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty -- it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,' he wrote.

Brian Chesky: Don't listen to your parents.

Kimberly White/Getty
Brian Chesky.

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said in an interview with The New York Times' Adam Bryant that recent grads shouldn't listen to their parents.

'They're the most important relationships in your life, but you should never take your parents' career advice, and I'm using parents as a proxy for all the pressures in the world,' he told Bryant. 'I also say that whatever career you're in, assume it's going to be a massive failure. That way, you're not making decisions based on success, money and career. You're only making it based on doing what you love.'

Diane von Furstenberg: Keep it real.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Diane von Furstenberg.

In an interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg says she has learned that trusting yourself is the key to success.

'In order to trust yourself, you have to have a relationship with yourself,' she told Bryant. 'In order to have a relationship with yourself, you have to be hard on yourself, and not be delusional.'

Rick Goings: Be nice to everyone.

Courtesy of Tupperware Brands
Rick Goings.

Rick Goings, CEO of home-products company Tupperware Brands, which brought in $2.6 billion in revenue last year, shared his favourite pearls of wisdom for young people with Business Insider. One of them was be nice to everyone when you go on a job interview.

'I like to check with the driver, our receptionist, and my assistants on how the candidate interacted with them. How you treat others means the world!'

Maya Angelou: Make your own path.

Getty Images
Maya Angelou

In her book, The Best Advice I Ever Got,' Katie Couric quotes author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer Maya Angelou:

My paternal grandmother, Mrs. Annie Henderson, gave me advice that I have used for 65 years. She said, 'If the world puts you on a road you do not like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to you place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a new path.'

John Chen: Being a 'superstar' can hurt your career.

Reuters
John Chen

'Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do,' BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote in a LinkedIn post earlier this year.

'While it's important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your coworkers.' It can also turn off your boss, he warns.

'Trying too hard to show you're a superstar tells me that you only care about what's best for you, and not the company as a whole.'

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