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

Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation speaks during a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) event highlighting maternal and child health initiatives in Washington on March 9, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg.

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.

Justin Sullivan / Staff | Getty Images News
Bill and Melinda Gates at Stanford’s graduation ceremony, June 15, 2014

“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.”