Yeezus Speaks: 3 Career Lessons from Kanye West
Kanye West has never been accused of being subtle.
From his very public love affairs (and baby name choices) to his bad award-show etiquette to his most recent headline-grabber, a revealing and ego-packed interview for the New York Times, Ye finds himself ever-present in the spotlight.
And, while it may seem like a stretch to compare the career trajectory of the self-titled “Steve Jobs of modern culture” to your own, hear me out. Love him or loathe him, Yeezy has some great insight on career development.
Here are three pieces of career advice you can take from West, inspired by his most recent Times interview.
1. Keep Taking the Shot—Even if You Don’t Make the Team
I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it.”
Looking at Kanye’s career now, it’s hard to imagine him ever being out of the spotlight. But, as he recently revealed, he wasn’t always at the top of his game.
After not making his seventh grade basketball team, West practiced all summer, determined to make the cut the following year. Much to his surprise, however, he didn’t make it that year, either. But that didn’t stop him, and by his freshman year of high school, he was on the junior varsity team.
Our careers can be a lot like Kanye’s tryouts. Despite how hard we’ve worked and how much we think we deserve that job or promotion, it doesn’t always pan out. In fact, chances are most of us will have to work through a rejection or two before we land that career-winning shot.
And while it can be tough to swallow, it’s important to not get down about every setback, and instead channel that energy into continuing to reach higher and achieve more. Take a lesson from Ye, and remember that persistence is part of the game.
2. Revisit Minimalism
I’m just trying to cut away all the—you know, it’s even like what we talk about with clothing and fashion, that sometimes all that gets in the way.”
Hearing West talk about minimalism may seem oxymoronic, given his lavish lifestyle and constant appearances on TMZ, but when considered within the context of his music, it makes sense: West’s lyrics are able to take on complex topics, stripping them down and simplifying them with a direct message.
Along similar lines, we often hear axioms about how the simplest solution is always best, and to “keep it simple.” That can seem tough given our complicated lives and careers, but think about it: Especially when you’re stressed, it’s easy to overcomplicate a project or your job search approach—applying to every opening in your city and rushing to create the best video or infographic resume the world has ever seen.
But sometimes, it’s best to get back to basics and cut out all the clutter. Whether it’s streamlining your resume to highlight your most compelling accomplishments, shortening up that email to your boss, or narrowing your focus to five amazing companies, taking a minimalist approach to your career can be just what you need to get to the next level.
3. Show Respect Where Respect is Due
I will completely bow to anybody I respect.”
As a music icon and a globally recognized celebrity, it’s easy to see how someone like Kanye West might have a bit of an ego (and we all know he has that in spades.) But, while he never apologizes for his confidence, he also makes sure he recognizes the talents of others along the way.
This is an important reminder as you progress through your career: Success, while positive in most regards, can cloud your judgment if not kept in check. As you continue to surpass milestones and achieve your goals, try to remember the managers, mentors—and even janitors—who helped you get there. While it may seem at times like you did all this on your own, give yourself a dose of humility on a regular basis to help keep you grounded, and make sure you give credit where credit is due.
While you may not enjoy the same super-stardom of Kanye West (yet!), there’s no reason you can’t learn from his experience. Work through failure, respect your mentors and colleagues, and don’t be afraid to get back to the basics occasionally. You’ll find you’re enjoying your own spotlight in no time.
All quotes are by Kanye West, excerpted from the New York Times interview, "Behind Kanye’s Mask," by John Caramanica. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Ferrari.
About The Author
Quickly becoming the most nationally recognized career coach, Ryan Kahn has placed thousands of college students, recent grads, and job seekers on the path to their dream career. Kahn is founder of The Hired Group, star of MTV’s Hired, and author ofHired! The Guide for the Recent Grad.