Here's Your Graduation Gift: Some Advice

May 26, 2021 | Author: Jeff Owen, Arête Purpose Consulting

Arete Purpose Consulting Indianapolis

So...you have graduated. Or you are about to graduate. Or you will graduate once you complete that online accounting course later this summer.

Congratulations on your accomplishment. And what an accomplishment it is.

Your senior year was extraordinarily challenged by a pandemic, an economic upheaval and a great political divide. You had to stay socially distant in some traditional senior experiences - the pomp and circumstance, the prom, the celebratory parties with family and friends. You were forced into an ever-changing new normal (masks, quarantines, virtual math class).

Yet, you endured and prepared yourself for the next step. Everyone's graduation is memorable. Yours, though, will define you differently than previous generations.

As you think about your future, and for whatever it's worth, here is some advice from someone who flipped a tassel decades ago and started a writing career (hold onto your mortarboard) using a typewriter:

Take control of your steering wheel

Since your birth, you have been directed, guided and consoled by well-meaning parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, teachers and...that one goofball uncle.

They have held your hand along your path. If you were lucky enough, they also pulled you from the berm when you veered off (hopefully not because you were texting).

What you do - and how you do it - is now on you, and only you. Others can give you advice and support. But they cannot make your decisions.

They also cannot - nor will not - be responsible for your actions. Ask any first-year law student. "My Facebook Friend told me it was OK..." is not an admissible defense in court.

Be willing to start low and work your way up in a career

Entry-level jobs are opportunities. This is when you learn the importance of teamwork and achieving goals. This is where you understand that businesses succeed by delivering products or services on time and in good order. Every position in that process is critical - even your menial job.

When you communicate with customers and co-workers, remember what you were taught in your 6th grade English class. Instagram and texting shorthand is not acceptable in business emails or reports. Neither is smacking gum or mumbling to your shoes when meeting and dealing with others in the workplace. Be clear and concise. And, for goodness sake, use proper punctuation.

Also, when you apply for a job, dress appropriately for the interview. The same at the workplace. Keep your butt crack and certain body parts hidden. You are not heading out to the clubs (whenever they open again).

And when you get that first job, it's your responsibility to succeed. Show up. Show up on time. Show up on time and ready to work. Earn your pay.

Understand that respect is earned, not commanded

Malcontents on social media complain about being disrespected. But how can you be "dis" respected if you weren't respected in the first place? "It's not logical." (Spock: Every Star Trek episode).

The recipe for "Respect" contains three primary ingredients: conduct, motive and integrity.

If you act like an ass, don't be shocked when you are treated like one. If you act only on your behalf, you will live a lonely life. If you step on people to get ahead, one of them will reach up and break your ankle.

Without getting too pious, you need to read and live the passage about "Do unto others..." It works.

Don't pattern your life after Kanye West or any of the Kardashians. You will look like a fool.

Know and understand the difference between "Want" and "Need"

Everyone wants a new house. But you only need an apartment to get started. Everyone wants an Escalade. But you need a used Kia with good gas mileage.

Prioritizing "Want" over "Need" usually leads to personal financial mishaps. Even in this challenging economic climate, banks still like to issue Visa cards with generous lines of credit. If they haven't already, they will send you graphically appealing invitations and emails to join their elite credit clubs at a 27 percent interest rate compounded daily.

Remember, though, if you miss a payment for any reason (forgot the due date, spent cash instead at a Von Maur shoe sale), the banks will come and get the stuff you bought with their money.

They are funny that way.

Take risks and learn from failure

You have an idea. You have a dream. Go for it. And if you fail - accept it, learn from it and keep trying it. Don't let the fear of failure diminish your effort or determination.

Abraham Lincoln had 12 political and business failures before becoming our 16th President. Thomas Edison tried more than 9,000 experiments before successfully creating the first working light bulb. Walt Disney started his first cartoon company in his garage, and it went bankrupt because critics said he had no creative ideas. Lady Gaga was dropped by her first record company because they didn't think her music resonated with listeners.

Write this down and keep it handy to read for motivation: "Never, never, never give up." That comes from Winston Churchill, who failed the 6th grade.

Be a learning sponge

Your education does not stop with your final Final Exam. You have the chance to learn throughout the rest of your life. Take advantage of each opportunity.

Attend and participate in training seminars. Watch how long-time employees do their jobs successfully. Ask your boss about expectations. There are "no dumb questions".

Stay atop of technology. Don't let it pass you by.

Learn how the stock market works. Examine your tax bill and hold accountable the politicians who create it.

Go to the library. Take an art class. Shoot pictures of nature. Watch PBS, the Discovery Channel and HGTV.

Read, read, read. And write, write, write.

Value your family

Friends - especially boyfriends and girlfriends - will come and go. Today's BFF probably will become distant over time, maybe keeping touch on social media.

During life's most challenging and wonderful moments, your family will be most important to you.

It's also important to remember that family isn't necessarily defined by bloodlines. You can be related by marriage, adoption, partnership or a shared common interest -- like love for dogs. No matter the link, family members bond by unconditional love and acceptance.

Families survive the test of time. They welcome you when you explore and come back. They forgive when you admit your transgressions. They are happy when you succeed and lift you up when you don't.

Families call when you are sick -- and check to see if you are having a good day.

Families don't care about your LinkedIn profile. They are proud of you whether you are shoveling dirt or running a Fortune 500 company.

Family raised you, nurtured you and prepared you for this moment. You should be eternally grateful and indebted to them.

Now, go forth. Live, love and learn. Use this gift wisely.

Jeff Owen is a Partner with Arête Purpose Consulting and a Partner with Clever Dogs Media. He has learned all of these lessons - sometimes the hard way.