Kenneth C. Griffin, the founder and chief executive officer of global alternative investment firm Citadel, visited the Yale School of Management on April 12, where he joined Dean Kerwin K. Charles in a conversation that touched on the meaning of success and the value of learning from failure, the importance of mentorship, and how artificial intelligence could impact the 21st-century workforce. Griffin also offered career advice to students in the audience.
“You should be risk-seeking at this point in your life,” said Griffin, who, in 1990, took the risk of launching his own firm just one year after graduating from Harvard. “This is a great moment to think about pursuing opportunities that present the greatest opportunity to learn and make a difference. You should go for it—right here, right now—because it will become harder to take risks over time as your personal responsibilities increase. Even if those opportunities don’t work out, what you learn will help inform everything else you do in life.”
Griffin said that the experiences that individuals have early in their careers lay the foundation for the decades ahead. One of the most valuable things one can do at the start of their career is to seek out a mentor, he said.
“So much of your career will come down to mentorship and apprenticeship… My sharpest young colleagues gravitate toward those colleagues who invest their time in them… You need to find yourself in relationships where someone takes an interest in you—someone who is going to push you,” said Griffin.
Griffin urged students to look at failure as another learning opportunity, equating it to “a tuition bill.” He said that the lessons from the 2008 Great Recession helped forge him and his industry peers into more successful leaders.
The rise of artificial intelligence, Griffin said, has made a commitment to lifelong learning even more essential in finance, as developments like ChatGPT will overtake more and more white-collar jobs and functions in years to come.
“People who have not been in a lifetime pursuit of continuous learning will find themselves in a very dark place. If you’re not finding yourself learning and growing—as a leader, as a domain expert—you’ve got to move on to another position.”