The Lesson Oprah Learned In Her 20s That Everyone Should Know


Today, Oprah Winfrey turns 62. For those who grew up watching her tackle tough issues and give away cars, it’s hard to imagine she was ever a twenty-something trying to make a name for herself.

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In a talk she gave at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 2014, Winfrey explained that she didn’t have childhood dreams of working in TV or media, but was offered a job at a local CBS station as a sophomore in college.

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She described her mindset going in blind as, “having Barbara Walters in mind and thinking, Yeah, I can do that.” She went on to explain that, by trying things within the world of TV, she was able to find what she was good at — and what she wasn’t. It’s a heartening idea for anyone who has taken a work failure to heart.

Winfrey was hired as a co-anchor for Baltimore’s WJZ-TV’s nightly news at 22, but after less than a year on the job, she found herself demoted.

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Winfrey told Baltimore Magazine, “I shall never forget April 1, 1977. I got called out of the newsroom to meet with the general manager. He said, ‘We think you are so talented, we want you to have your own spot. We are going to move you to morning cut-ins.’ I was devastated.”

But, that devastation lead her to her true calling—hosting talk shows. She became the co-host of People Are Talking, which debuted in 1978. She explained during her Stanford interview, “The moment I sat on the talk show, interviewing the Carvel ice cream man and his multiple flavors, I knew that I had found home.”

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By the time she was 31, she was hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show. So, listen to your gut. Don’t worry if you next career move doesn’t look like the best change on paper if it makes sense to you. Let your twenty-something career be in flux. And if anyone questions you on it, say you have a really, really good career coach.

By: Molly Horan