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Think Tank

Nicholas Negroponte’s Advice for Recent Graduates

Oh, the places you’ll go! For recent graduates who see the world as their oyster—and it is—such a vantage point can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions to face that seem like life or death, a game of “Choose Your Own Adventure” with too many choices. And of course, graduating into an abysmal economy certainly compounds the pressure.

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of One Laptop per Child and co-founder of the MIT Media Laboratory, has advice to help you narrow down your options and set off on the best path for you, even in this economy.

“I think you’re very lucky to be graduating now,  because 25 years ago when people graduated and let’s say had a job in investment banking, very successful careers, and let’s say today they’re in their middle to late fifties, they’ve just retired, and you meet them at a cocktail party, what do they tell you about? [Being the] CEO of an investment bank. They tell you about the Peace Corps years and what they did in the Peace Corp. And I’m saying, ‘Wait a minute. You’ve just had this amazing life and you’re talking about the Peace Corps?’”

As Negroponte points out, having had a meaningful career trumps money when people look back on their lives. Don’t flip a coin; decide to follow the path that is the most meaningful to you, even if the pay is low. You will enjoy the journey more and look back with great fondness. So instead of investment banking, dive into social entrepreneurship.

“It’s, in fact, a period today where you can take an avocation and turn it into something that’s very intimately connected with what you do. And if you are toying with taking a job because it pays well but you hate it, don’t do that,” he says. 

For more on Negroponte’s advice for recent graduates, watch this clip from Big Think’s interview:

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