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Steven Spielberg and Warren Buffett are inarguably at the top of their respective fields. As a film director, Spielberg redefined the genre and pioneered the New Hollywood era of film. Rather than the arts, Buffett made his fortune through strategic investments and his diversified holding company Berkshire Hathaway. The career paths of these men could not be more different, but their beginnings are surprisingly similar. Spielberg and Buffett showed great tenacity and creativity at the beginnings of their careers, and it's what set them on the right career path to become the titans they are today. If you want to know how to jumpstart your career, the stories of these two men provide ample inspiration.
The Spielberg Method: Sneaking In
Steven Spielberg got his start when he was still a teenager, proving that it's never too early for you to grind to get the career you want. After graduating high school, Spielberg moved to Los Angeles to attempt to break into the film industry. The phrase "break into" is particularly apt, as Spielberg had to do just that when he snuck into Universal Studios. After getting onto the lot via tour bus, Spielberg got off under the guise of needing to use the restroom. He hid until the bus drove out of sight, and spent the rest of the day on, what could generously be called, a self-guided tour. This was the first of many tenacious steps Spielberg would take in his efforts to get the kind of job he wanted.
After meeting a Universal employee named Chuck Silvers, Spielberg was able to get a three-day visitor's pass. Spielberg spent these days schmoozing with actors and studio executives and sneaking into soundstages and editing rooms. On the fourth day, after his visitor's pass had expired, Spielberg acted as though nothing had changed, simply greeting the doorman every day. This goes to show how important it is to meet people and build relationships. Many in Spielberg's shoes wouldn't have bothered to get to know the gate attendant when there were so many Hollywood bigwigs to meet instead, but by forming that one seemingly insignificant relationship, Spielberg was able to turn his three-day pass into a months-long unpaid internship.
During this period, Silvers eventually turned into a sort of mentor and career coach to Spielberg, asking him to bring in a short film. Spielberg spent months writing and directing the half-hour film that would be titled Amblin' before bringing it in to show Silvers, who in turn showed Universal Studios's vice president Sidney Sheinberg. This series of brazen moves landed Spielberg a seven-year contract on the spot. Spielberg worked his way up from sneaking off a tour bus to becoming the youngest director to be signed to a multi-year contract with a major production studio. Much of Spielberg's early success was thanks to the relationships he built. Use him as inspiration to build your network based on the kind of job you want.
In order to get to this point, however, it's also important to understand that Spielberg didn't just go to Hollywood and become a director by chance. Spielberg had already amassed years of practice directing his own short films. As you work toward getting your big break, it's important not to neglect practicing your trade. The way Greek philosopher Seneca the Younger put it, "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." If it hadn't been for all the amateur 8mm films he made growing up, honing his craft, Spielberg's opportunity with Chuck Silvers would have been squandered.
The Buffett Method: Working For Free
If you're looking for inspiration on how to jumpstart your career, you needn't look any further than Warren Buffett. One of the richest men in the world, Buffett is perhaps the greatest investor of all time. Just like Steven Spielberg, Buffett displayed a unique tenacity from an early age, becoming considerably wealthy by the time he finished college—he had the equivalent of over $100,000 in his saving account—thanks to several micro hustles and unique business ventures.
One of Buffett's greatest inspirations was an investor named Benjamin Graham. Upon learning of Graham's teaching position at Colombia Business School, Buffett decided to attend the school solely to study under Graham. Upon graduating, Buffett decided he'd rather work for his idol than take some dull, but profitable, corporate job. Graham did not initially seem interested in having Buffett as an employee, even when Buffett offered to work for free.
Buffett continued to stay in contact with Graham for two years, continuously offering to work for him until Graham finally relented. Without even knowing whether he'd receive a salary, Buffett moved to New York City, where Graham's firm was located. Buffett spent another two years working at an entry level position directly under Graham, learning from his idol first-hand until Graham decided to retire. Then, when all of Graham's clients asked for recommendations on where to move their money, Graham sent them to Buffett, who had by this time started his own firm in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
Buffett's early career is a lesson in persistence, as well as the value of long-term planning. While he could certainly have landed a solid job out of Columbia Business School and lived a more than comfortable life, Buffett saw beyond the short-term gains in his efforts to work for his idol. Though Buffett ended up pulling a healthy salary at Graham's firm, his offer to work for free signified that he understood that the value of mentorship and relationships can be greater than the value of a monetary salary. I can't necessarily recommend you offer free labor to potential employers; in this day and age, it's not the best way to set yourself up for future career advancement. However, understanding the value of non-monetary compensation can set you on a successful career path.
Be the Enactor
If you're trying to figure out how to jumpstart your career, the biggest lesson you can take away from these two titans is that nobody else is going to put any effort toward jump starting your career for you. You have to do it yourself, even if that means just starting out with side hustles that will help you pay your bills each month. Spielberg might never have broken into a career as a director if he hadn't snuck off that tour bus. Buffett would not have become one of the richest humans in the world had he not offered to work a full time job for free. Great risks beget great rewards, but the first step is taking your career into your own hands.