I’m worried, graduate. I looked for the story on your graduation in the news. Where are you going to apply your education? What did your graduation speaker say that might inspire us all? Were you recognized for what I know you’ve done for your school and your community? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the story.
Instead, I saw that the potential for war is escalating in Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere in the world. Our relationship hasn’t been this tense with Russia since the Cold War. And our Congress spends less time doing their business than Homer Simpson does at a MENSA meeting. The world needs you.
Take what you’ve learned and help make us better people. Know your place. Know your time. Know your talents and faults, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Never stop trying to improve yourself because you’ll improve those around you. Keep working hard, and you’ll improve people like me. Improve more people like me, and you’ll eventually improve the world. We need that.
Here are my top ten suggestions for current graduates:
Learn to mentor your mentor. I think corporate America often misapplies mentoring, thinking the newbie needs to be the mentee. Accept it (for now), then teach America how things have changed, and how things must continue to change. But you’ll gain greater traction if you do so with tact, respect, and diplomacy.
Avoid texting someone in the same building. Email, texting, and social media are wonderful (and essential) tools, but it’s often better and more effective to talk face-to-face.
Don’t write off a generation. Yes, I’m older than a current college graduate, and my generation may be blamed for many things. We did screw some things up, but unless you’re starting a new company, our experience built what is now your opportunity to change or preserve. Remember that we’re proud of what we did well, even if you’re here to change it.
Never. Stop. Listening. When you’re talking, you’re not learning. I’ve always agreed with the saying that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Know the value (and cost) of failure. Don’t be afraid to fail, but fail forward. Make your mistakes as early and as inexpensively as you can. But before you risk failure, know the upside and downside of what you’re about to do.
Give it a year. There will be days (soon) when you don’t like what you’re doing, or for whom you’re doing it. I recommend you give it a year. If it’s still not a good fit, move on. Find another place to challenge you. But once you’ve found a company that’s right for what you want to do, make sure you get answers to the questions you have about culture, core values, and the concerns that led to your departure.
Learn where the land mines are. When things blow up, don’t go there again without knowing how to get around the land mines. Learn how other people communicate. Learn their preferences, the way they think, and how they want to interact with you. I’ve always found that most land mines are on one-way streets.
Don’t build fences. Get to know people. Don’t write off someone who turns a cold shoulder, or just shut someone out. That guy you just dissed at the water cooler could be your next manager.
Be a sponge. Don’t charge into work thinking you know more than anyone else (even though you might.) The most successful graduates will be the ones who recognize that they still have a lot to learn and that they’ll never stop learning. Find a teacher, an advocate, a model of ethics, and wisdom. Learn everything you can. Learn right from wrong; good from bad. Learn from mistakes by you and others, and draw everything you can from their courage, vision, and passion for the business. Continue to be a student until it’s time to teach. When that time comes, teach well.
Be a model of good behavior. As you progress through the next few years, inherit the vision that’s been handed to you, and have the courage to change it when the time is right. Teach about hard work, moral fiber, and character. Teach your students that it’s good to accept accountability, responsibility, and goals that seem extraordinary….but worthy. Never expect your students to work harder than you do. Take good risks. Challenge yourself and the people around you. Celebrate the good and learn from the bad. And never be afraid to be the student again…and again.
The world’s not all bad, graduate. It just seems like good news isn’t news at all anymore. Help us restore integrity, honesty, morality, and fun in the workplace. Help make us proud again, because the future is yours.
So, let’s get on with it.
If you’re considering hiring a new graduate, and want to assess how they will fit into your company’s culture, contact Fitzgerald MSI.