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Jefferies CEO: Here's what I wish I knew after graduating college

Julia La Roche
Richard Handler, CEO of Jefferies, shares 100 things he wished that he knew after graduating college. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Commencement season is here.

It’s the time of year when business leaders, politicians, and celebrities take to podiums at campuses around the world, delivering words of wisdom to the graduating class of 2019.

The nation’s business and cultural elites impart advice and wisdom —for free— to tomorrow’s leaders, right before they accept their diplomas and head off to the “real world.”

Long-time investment bank CEO Richard Handler, who’s led Jefferies ( JEF ) since 2001, recently came up with a list of 100 things he wished he had known when he graduated from college back in 1983. He shared those things with this year’s graduating economics class at University of Rochester.

Despite its length, the list — part of which Yahoo Finance has reproduced below— represents simple and straightforward advice.

Handler dishes out wisdom on everything from mentorship (seek it), office politics (avoid it), financial planning (have one), and life partnership (find the right one).

“I share this new list with the hope that perhaps one idea will resonate with just one graduate and it will give her or him some perspective as they begin their next phase of life’s adventure,” Handler wrote.

On Wall Street, Handler has a reputation for sending memos and letters to his employees and clients, offering words of wisdom.

Below are the top 10 nuggets of advice he gave during his commencement address:

1. The most valuable asset you will ever have in your career is your reputation. It is also the most fragile.

2. Treat your first and every job like you are certain it is your ultimate career. First, it might be, and second, this is the only way to truly find out.

3. Petty internal politics may seem to work great in the short term. They won’t get you where you want to go in the long term.

4. A career is not a zero sum game. This is such a simple statement to make, but one of the hardest concepts to believe and live by.

5. Find a mentor. If you are fortunate to earn one, this person will challenge you beyond what you believe you are capable of achieving. They will instill within you a confidence that comes from knowing someone you respect believes in you. This is a person [to whom] you can expose your vulnerability...and receive honest (sometimes painful) constructive advice. This person will not only make a difference in your career, but will have true impact on the person you will become and the legacy you will leave.

6. A mentor doesn’t have to be the person who is most like you or who you like the most. It should be the person you can learn the most from. Sometimes this person is difficult, challenging and not fun. That’s ok because your goal is to learn and grow, not to hang out.

7. There has to be something in it for the mentor or why would anyone choose this role? A mentor will only be inspired to take on this role if they see a special spark inside you. You can’t pick your mentor. You can identify the candidates and work towards the goal, but they are the ones who get to pick.

8. Not surprisingly everyone wants a mentor and sadly very few people want a mentee. Why should a mentor want you if you are not the kind of person who chooses to give back by finding a worthy mentee?

9. You are never too junior to have a mentee. All you have to do is care about those who know less than you, but have the potential to make the world better. You may not believe it but you already have valuable experience to share. The amazing thing about life is the more people you mentor, the more you learn and the more rewarding your own life becomes. Don’t worry about having enough time. It will work out.

10. If you surround yourself with smart people, you will be challenged, uncomfortable, and grow as a person.

The full list is available here >>

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter . Send tips to laroche@oath.com.

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