10 Career Lessons From Major Success Stories

The following innovators, authors, entertainers and notable celebrities didn’t find success quickly or easily, but they all share a common denominator—they toughed it out and hit it big. Read on for 10 lessons you can learn from some of Her Campus’s favorite success stories.

1. Steve Jobs: “You’ve got to find what you love.”

You’ve heard it time and again: find something you love and pursue it. Steve Jobs was taking a risk when he dropped out of Reed College and started Apple in his parents’ basement, but three decades later, he found himself at the top of a multi-billion dollar company that probably produced your computer screen. In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs didn’t speak so much about talent or resources or GPA, but instead told the graduates “to have the courage to follow your heart and intuition… everything else is secondary.” It’s still important to be realistic (nobody is going to hire you to surf the Internet just because you love StumbleUpon), but if you love your work, it will be easier and you will do better. In the wise words of Aristotle, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

2. Jennifer Hudson: Success is rarely instant.

Try to remember way back when American Idolactually mattered to the public and Jennifer Hudson was a contestant. She was eliminated before she even reached the top six singers of season 3—and yet, in the long run, she managed to outperform most of the show’s winners from every season. Less than three years after her elimination from Idol, Hudson was belting it out all over the big screen in Dreamgirlsalongside stars like Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. She kept at it and made her way to the top, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Dreamgirls, releasing a Grammy-winning debut album and landing several more roles in movies like Sex and the City and The Secret Life of Bees. Learn from Hudson’s story and don’t give up just because you weren’t noticed right away; keep working hard and you’ll earn recognition.

3. Mark Zuckerberg: Build and keep a solid network.

Facebook gets a bad rap for time-wasting, friend-stalking and boy-ogling, but in reality it has brought together millions of people who might not have kept in touch otherwise. Creator Mark Zuckerberg has not only created an extensive network for the world, but for himself as well. Soon after finishing his sophomore year of college, he made connections with technology moguls like Sean Parker of Napster, Peter Thiel of PayPal, and Steve Chen, who later co-founded YouTube. And while Facebook was a smart idea to begin with, these people gave Zuckerberg the tools to materialize it and build the entrepreneurial empire he has today. That isn’t to say you should give a firm handshake and your business card to everyone you see, but keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to meet new people. You never know where it may take you.

4. Barbara Walters: Keep your personal and professional lives separate.

Regarded today as a journalism icon and one of the world’s most influential women, Barbara Walters has been active in the television industry since the 1960’s when she began on The Today Show. Since then, she has gained a reputation as an expert interviewer as well as an incredibly popular TV personality, covering such events as Prince Charles’s conferment and speaking with figures like Anwar Sadat. While she was building this long list of credentials, however, Walters also dealt with the drama of marrying and divorcing four times, suffering three miscarriages, and raising a daughter. In 1996 she told theNew York Times, “I'm convinced that you stay married when the days are bad only because you really want to be. But I always had an out. I had this job, and this life and enough money. I didn't have to fight the bad days.” Walters kept it classy and managed her personal life without letting it interfere with her professional life, a skill that can help any woman’s career.

5. Barack Obama: No barrier is unbreakable.

About a century ago, American women couldn’t vote; 65 years ago, experts thought the sound barrier was unbreakable; and only four years ago, America had never had a black president. No matter your political standing, you’ve got to admit that President Obama has made history by breaking the race barrier in the White House. While he may seem distant on the podium or the television screen, the truth is that he was once just a college student at Columbia. Take his story as proof that you can take your career as far as you’d like it to go—no matter who has or hasn’t done so before you.