In the next few weeks we will be hearing a lot about commencement speeches. Some of these will be great, some boring and some mind-blowing. Some colleges will pay a fortune to bring in some heavy hitters like Bill Clinton or Condolezza Rice. Unfortunately not everyone gets to hear speakers such as Bill Clinton. Some get stuck with someone marginal they don’t even remember. It’s OK! You don’t want to pay the tuition bill for the college that hires a former president to speak at commencement.
Today’s post isn’t about aspirational stories or funny anecdotes about conversations with Vladimir Putin; instead I want to give you some solid advice on the next endeavor in your life: getting a job, keeping a job and maybe even liking that job.
I have spent almost 10 years of my life working in the corporate world on both sides, so I think I have something relevant to tell you. Here goes:
Job search tips:
1. Resumes are important – double and triple check grammar and spelling. I see grammar, spelling and formatting errors across all age groups, these mistakes chip away at your candidacy before you’ve even had a chance to open your mouth.
2. Cast a wide net – you are just starting out in your career so you can and should explore different jobs, different locations, and different companies. Consider all opportunities.
3. Don’t take the advice you receive too seriously. Most people give advice based on their own life experience. This may or may not be relevant to you depending on how close your life is now to someone’s when they were your age 30 years ago. You should listen but take advice with a grain of salt.
4. Interview advice – This is simple but I feel like I have to reiterate the basics: show up on-time, turn off your phone (I can still hear it vibrate), say “please” and “thank you,” don’t interrupt someone who is speaking, dress for the occasion, send a thank you note or email.
5. Some work history is better than no work history – is it September and you are still looking for a job? Get a job. Any job. Don’t laugh at the Starbucks barista, she is building experience and making money. Trust me, the point in time where you become the unemployed loser sitting in your parents basement is much sooner than you think.
Career and workplace advice:
1. It’s OK to take a job you are less than enthusiastic about….really you won’t find your passion at your first, second or third job, at this point you need to take a job (preferably in the professional field of your choice) that gives you experience and pays you money.
3. Working at a crappy job builds character – character is good. It is good to get crappy jobs out of the way at a young age. When people are screaming at you on the phone it won’t seem like that is true but trust me this is better now instead of later. It is much better to be at a miserable job when you only need to worry about feeding yourself and not an entire family. The crappy job you put up with now will give you the perspective and experience to see the good opportunities when they come along.
4. Don’t be annoyed if someone refers to you as the ”kid” or mentions that you are the youngest person on the team. At some point you won’t be the youngest person on the team anymore…this will make you sad.
5. What you were taught in school is not always how things play out in real life. The best practices you read about in your text books are expensive. Contribute realistic ideas that fit the organization (financial, culture and people) that you work for.
6. Do not compromise your ethics or morals.
7. Live below your means – this is common sense right? Unfortunately it is so common that people ignore it. Do you have a hard time thinking thirty years into the future? When 10, 15, 20% of your paycheck is going toward a goal 30 years in the future it is tempting to spend that money on your current reality. Don’t buy into that. Money = Freedom. Freedom = the opportunity to go into business for yourself, the opportunity to take a real vacation and disconnect, the opportunity to educate yourself and much more. Money = Freedom
8. No one expects you to know everything. I’m ashamed it took me a minute to learn this one; it actually took me quite a few frustrated hours and some candid advice before I finally stopped giving a crap and started asking questions. Don’t make my mistake.
9. Grit is good. There is a wealth of research material (and a great TedX talk) about grit. This is the ability to diligently persist until things are accomplished, a box is checked or the product has shipped. This is one of the most important skills you can develop. You don’t need to be the smartest or the most connected but if you can get things done, you shine. The people who get things done are the organizational linchpin. You want to be a linchpin.
What advice would you give to this year’s college graduates? I would love to hear it! Tell me in the comments.