Although not invited to give a commencement speech anywhere, I’ve sometimes thought what words of advice I’d give to kids and young adults about to embark on a journey into that scary place called “work.” So, in a couple minutes (the ideal length for a commencement speech IMHO), here we go:
Ok, Graduate. You did it.
Whether finishing high school or college, you, the Class of 2015, have completed a major chapter in life. Congratulations!
Now, the bad news. You’re just getting started with “real life.”
For those of you going out into the workforce, the fact you’ve got a job is terrific. That result in itself is a major cause for celebration these days. And as you get ready for work, a few helpful hints:
· Leave Mom and Dad at home. They aren’t welcome at work. They can’t help you there. Your boss doesn’t need or want their input. There’s no such thing as “Bring your parent to work day.” Your employer hired you and is counting on you to do the job you were hired for.
· There’s no trophy for doing your job. That’s what you were hired for in the first place and what you’re expected to do. All the sociological preaching about catering to Millennials and their “special” way of getting them to work, while a great cottage industry for former EST promoters, is utter hogwash. You’re no more special than those who’ve been here before you. Just do what’s expected. Work. Contribute. Show appreciation for your boss and coworkers. Volunteer for extra work. Go above and beyond what you’re asked to do.
· Above all, show up to work. The days of sleeping late are pretty much over. If your schedule is 8 to 5, that means be at work no later than 8 and leave no sooner than 5. Pretty simple concept, right? Do it.
If you are graduating from high school or college and don’t have a job yet, unfortunately you’re not alone. The economic recovery out there, despite what political spin doctors would have you believe, is a wobbly colt at best. And it’s really an employer’s market. So how can you distinguish yourself from your competition? Some positive ways to do so:
· Time to grow up on social media. Though prospective employers generally have no need to read your social media posts, many probably do. Clean up your posts. Take down your beer pong profile picture. You’re not in high school or in college Greek life anymore. Put some clothes on. And get rid of those words you don’t want your grandmother to know that you either know or use.
· First impressions do matter. Please save the gauges, horns, septum posts, serpent tongues, and other unusual studs or piercings for National Geographic. Too many visible tattoos are an unnecessary distraction – yes, just my opinion, but not unlike the opinion of many potential employers you are asking to invest in hiring you. If you have overindulged somewhat in body modifications, cover up when you interview. And if you’re thinking of getting congratulatory ink for graduation, think again. Look at your uncle who was in the Army or Navy back in the 60s or 70s to see what your tattoo will look like years from now. Nice, eh?
· Past jobs count. Work on your references to give potential employers. A really good reference could make a crucial difference in a hiring decision. Now is the time to perfect, or start perfecting, the art of schmooze. Find some reliable, good references from your prior jobs and use them. And don’t forget to thank them regardless whether or not you land that new job. Manners matter, too.
· Master the art of networking. Related to the previous point: Network. Network. Network. Merit and ability do matter, but so does knowing friends in high places. In many situations – whether landing a job or getting a promotion – it frequently is who you know and not what you know that helps you succeed. Perhaps not fair, but that’s the fact Jack. Work your connections. Develop new ones. Always be networking throughout your educational and working career. For professional and personal reasons, you need a network.
· Never, never, ever lie on a job application. Last but not least is the First Commandment of the workplace: "Thou shall not lie on your job application." Break that rule and it will come back to bite you sooner or later. And it can get you fired, even years into a job. If you are asked about an issue you think could be a problem with your getting hired, discuss it with your interviewer. Ask for clarification. Provide an explanation at the end of the application. But don’t fib.
And that, folks, is the end of the short commencement speech I’ve never given. Now go enjoy some BBQ, bubbly, friends and family.
I wish the Class of 2015 all the best!