Make It New Grads

Here's the No. 1 hard thing Melinda Gates says you need to do to succeed

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In honor of graduation season, CNBC Make It is rolling out the speeches and advice that America's leaders are most excited to share with the Class of 2017. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

Businesswoman and philanthropist Melinda Gates recalls feeling what many recent college graduates ultimately will: Discomfort.

Whether it's trying to find a job, adjusting to a new way of life or facing the challenges the business world throws your way, there's a lot that young professionals have to work through in the months and years after college.

For Gates, that discomfort was largely due to the fact that, in the late 1980s, she was one of very few women at Microsoft with a tech background. In that male-dominated industry, Gates thought she needed to mimic the style of the men around her.

It made her so unhappy, she says, she thought she was going to leave.

But instead Gates learned something valuable from the experience, and went on to become Microsoft's general manager of information product and, later, one of the most prominent philanthropists in the world.

In an interview with CNBC, Gates shares her best advice for new college graduates.

Bill and Melinda Gates at Stanford's graduation ceremony, June 15, 2014
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"This is a time in your life when a whole host of opportunities will suddenly open up," Gates tells CNBC, "and if you stay in your comfort zone, you'll miss out on so many things worth experiencing."

In other words, Gates says that young professionals should "get comfortable being uncomfortable."

That could include taking an internship or job in another industry that intrigues you, learning a new skill or taking the leap and asking people for career advice, all career steps experts recommend for recent grads.

"But while you're challenging yourself to embrace the discomfort of new environments and situations," Gates says, "also remember to treasure the things that make you uniquely you.

"The world doesn't need more people who think and act the same — so resist the temptation to conform to what's around you."

Brian Wong, a 26-year-old tech CEO and founder, echoes this idea. In his book "The Cheat Code," he writes that every professional has their "superpower," or strength. He says that those who don't take the time to think about their talents — and then use them — are missing out.

"Whatever it is you end up doing," Gates say, "bring something of your own to it."

Check out why Bill Gates and Warren Buffett say your friends are crucial to your career. And look for more exclusive pieces of advice from icons like Joe Biden, Dave Ramsey and others over the next few weeks. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

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