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A Message For Graduates

May 30

As young people graduate from college during this time of year, there is no shortage of advice being given to them by everyone from commencement speakers and social commentators to professors and parents. Some of that advice will be profound and life-changing, while some will feel generic and uninspiring. Sorting through it and figuring out which is which is one of the challenges of graduates, I suppose.

Well, I’ll go ahead and contribute my own two cents of advice here, as it pertains specifically to preparing for the world of work.

Three things stand out to me:

  • First, the only reason why your GPA matters is that it is a possible indication of how hard you can work. Having said that, I’ll take a hard working ‘B student to a naturally intelligent and lazy ‘A student’ every time. Almost any wise employer will, too. So, if you’re a graduate and skated through school, know that you’re in trouble if you don’t find a way to discover a new work ethic. And if you didn’t do as well as you wish you had but you learned to push yourself and work your tail off, rest assured that you are well-prepared.
  • Second, and I know you’ve heard this over and over, social skills and emotional intelligence are vastly more important than test scores and IQ. If your college experience taught you how to interact with others in a thoughtful, appropriate way, and you’ve learned how your words and actions impact others, then you’re way ahead of the game. 30 years after my college graduation, I can say that it is as true as it has ever been in the real world.
  • Finally, and this is most important of all, you should be coming out of college a lot humbler than when you went in. If you understand that you are not the center of the universe, and that the people who served your food in the dining hall are just as important as the department chair in your academic major, then you’re going to have a big advantage over peers who believe that their achievement and pedigree make them more interesting and worthy of attention than others. They are in store for a rude awakening.

If you want to be a valuable employee, team member and leader in your career, the assets that you want to acquire and cherish more than any other are hunger, common sense about people and humility. Those characteristics are your ticket to a successful career. And they’ll serve you well in life, too.