Beyond the Commencement Speech: Graduation Advice from Elders

The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier this week entitled “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You.”  While this list appears to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it would be interesting to gather ideas from people with years in the workforce about what they wish their commencement speaker had shared.

A few things I wish I had been told:

You will get much further in your career if you are able to work as a productive member of a team. Don’t feel the need to constantly be the best or to get credit for everything. In fact, share credit for great work widely whenever you can.

There will always be more work to do. Leave the office at a reasonable hour, so you can come back to the work the next day with a refreshed mind and outlook.

When you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your plate, just take them one step at a time. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Trust yourself. You are entering a workplace where young people’s perspectives are infrequently valued. Have faith in your abilities and eventually, people will realize what you can do.

You will make mistakes. Accept responsibility, find a way to avoid making the same mistake twice and move on.

Make time for interests outside work. This will make you more interesting, which will serve you well in your life and in your career.

Think hard before moving to another city for a job. There is much more to life than work. Make sure that you will like where you would live and the people who would surround you, as well as your work, before deciding to make a move.

If you notice small red flags during an interview, these will usually turn into large red flags once you are an employee. Listen to your instincts.

Try not to pigeon-hole yourself into one career path, unless you are sure that that is what you want to do for the rest of your career. It can be hard to change course mid-career.

And wear sunscreen. 🙂

Those are some of my pearls of wisdom. What do you wish you had been told at graduation?     

2 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Education, Youth Leadership

2 responses to “Beyond the Commencement Speech: Graduation Advice from Elders

  1. Your last piece of advice, about not “pigeon-holing” yourself, is the best recommendation there is for a liberal education — rather than vocational training. Well said!

    • Absolutely. That one is a biggie in my mind. I do work that I love, but I also sometimes wonder what else I could have done well and enjoyed. Momentum takes over at some point it seems.

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