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(Graduation Advice) The Graduation Speech I Never Gave

The graduation speech I never gave _ Red Cape Revolution

Need more graduation advice? No matter if you’re a new grad or celebrating your 40th reunion, enjoy this text of the graduation speech I was never asked to deliver to the today’s college and university graduates.

(Cue dramatic music.)

Congratulation graduates! You’re saying goodbye to four (or more) years of academic challenge and entering the new world of work.

Don’t shudder—this is going to be great. And we need you.

Really—I’ll tell you why in a minute.

But we need you to know a few other things first—things they didn’t tell you in class.

1. We need you to stop believing the myth that good jobs are rare.

Good jobs surround us. The myth that they’re rare is a construct of the media, designed to capture our attention and keep us watching, reading, and waiting.

It’s a myth based on extremes, not on everyday reality.

We like to talk in extremes today. We can’t just say it’s raining hard or snowing like crazy–we have to say it’s the “Storm of the Century” or “Snowmageddon.”

But don’t fall for the extremes that make up most of the external conversation about careers and work.

I’m not saying that every single person has the job of their dreams. Of course they don’t.

It is absolutely true that there still college-educated, talented, valuable people at all ages still looking for the right work for them.

And it’s absolutely true that many companies are still hiring conservatively, cautious of what the future will bring based on the surprises that hit them the past few years.

But as you listen to all the graduation advice, know that here’s what’s also true.

The reality is that many companies are hungry for the right talent and creative thinking that will help them move forward.

The reality is that there are more problems than ever in America and the world, and each problem to solve is one job (or a hundred) for someone to create.

We want you to know is that there IS a job for you.

What it is, I can’t tell you. That’s now your mission

That’s now your mission not-impossible, your journey, your quest.

(What, you thought you’d just be handed one straight out of the campus career center? Sorry, dude.)

To vault into that quest, here’s the second thing you need to know.

2. We need you to tell us how you can help.

Tell us—and show us–what you can do.

Don’t look to anyone else to figure it out for you, no matter how many assessments or quizzes you take online.

Get clear first on who you are and what you want, and build your worklife from there. (My personal set of exercises and tools I use with my clients are organized for a fast start here.)

Stretch for your ideal job, but take the imperfect-but-available one now to get moving, get experience, get into the world.

(Oh, and to get money. Money you earn yourself is twice as valuable as money given to you by others. I know this doesn’t make sense based on that Econ 101 class you took, but believe me, when you look back, you’ll understand what I mean.)

To tell us how you can help, you have to learn what you truly love and are good at, right now.

How? Get crazy curious. Talk to everyone you can (even your parents’ friends—ewww), and learn what’s happening in their worlds of work, as well as what’s happening in your community and your world.

(I’ve already written the networking emails for you here.)

Stop trying so hard to be interesting–be more interest-ed.

Pay attention to where the problems are, what the trends are, where the needs are.

Figure out how the stuff you bring can answer those needs.

Please note, especially you engineering grads, that activity this is best executed heads-up, done mostly in the physical world of offices, coffee shops, and living rooms.

It’s not a time to get heads-down with your face in your laptop and your butt on the couch.

Trust me—heads-up gets more results.

Basically, through this crazy curious heads-up work, you’re filling in the pieces of this simple equation:

What I Love to Do + What I’m Good At

÷  Problems I Can Solve

= My Next Job

And you thought calculus would never come in handy, right?

Keep solving for each of these elements, and you’ll have the clarity others crave.

3. You need to know we need you in the new world of work.

You’re not an extra, drifting in the background of the working world’s movie set.

We’re ready for your close-up as a real-life, working adult.

We need you now, and we expect that you’ll contribute. We’re not letting you off the hook.

We need you to show up—prepared, on-time as promised.

(Just to saGraduation Speechy it, being on time is not about conforming, being contained, being restricted. It is actually a sign of maturity, showing that you can control your own body and environment. Including traffic—planning ahead for what usually happens during rush hour is taking control.  It is a sign of respect for others that if you agree to a commitment, you respect them enough to keep it. Always be on time—or even early—and you’ll stand apart from the crowd. Okay, rant over.)

The world is full of tough problems and issues right now.

Yes, I suppose graduation speakers said the same thing when I graduated over 30 years ago. (Audible gasp from the crowd.)

That doesn’t make it less true.

What you need to know is that there’s good work out there waiting for you, problems waiting for you to solve, and people needing your talents and contributions.

It’d be a shame–or worse–to let them down.

It’s your job to do all you can to track them down, offer your gifts to them, and get moving.

Welcome to the new world of work. We’re glad you’re finally here.

YOUR TURN: What would YOU share with recent grads? Share your thoughts privately with me in email here, or start a conversation on our page on Facebook.