The Graduation Advice You Wished for But Never Got

The Graduation Advice You Wished for But Never Got

As you awaited your diploma for graduation from high school or college, you might have believed you had a great foundation for joining the working world. However, some years later, you begin to realize that the advice you needed to hear was advice you never received from graduation speakers, your parents or anyone else.

Traditional Graduation Advice

Most classic graduation advice, dispensed by public speakers, parents and educators, centers on new beginnings for graduates. Graduation speaker topics typically focus on making your mark in the future.

This advice is always upbeat, predicting success for all graduates in the coming years. Depending on their quality and communication expertise, graduation speakers can deliver uplifting, polished rhetoric.

One of the most memorable graduation speeches was famously delivered by World War II British hero, Sir Winston Churchill, at Harrow School in 1941. Graduates were not only pleased with Churchill’s brevity, but were inspired by his message. It was simple, positive and to the point.

Churchill famously said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.” While the British Prime Minister was a wonderful orator, he kept his graduation advice short, clear and inspiring. His speech has become a legend and icon in the graduation advice universe.

Churchill’s approach, however, is rare in the traditional annals of graduation advice. His use of the negative word, “never,” is a dramatic difference from the totally positive advice usually given to new graduates.

Advice Graduates Really Need to Hear, but Seldom Receive

The noted Harvard Business Review and Associate Editor Gretchen Gavett asked a number of business leaders and writers about the graduation advice they wished they had received before entering the demanding world of work. Whether you are a recent graduate or must look in the rear view mirror of your memory of the graduation advice you received, you may agree with most of the common opinions of these leaders.

Important graduation advice you did not receive:

  • Prepare for and accept that you’ll face roadblocks, difficulties and challenges in your working career.
  • Treat challenges and problems as valuable opportunities to stand above the crowd.
  • Hard work, alone, may not advance your career; you must become more valuable than your peers to employers.
  • Decide on which work and life path you want to take. The safest paths will probably work for you, but don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box, skirt the safe rules and be a bit different. You will face some criticism, but the world may love you for it.
  • Choose the hardest, most demanding job you can find to learn how to overcome monumental challenges and problems as early in your career as possible.
  • Decide where your passion lies. Common options include focusing on accumulating wealth, titles, prestige or power. If you are more passionate about helping others, designing innovative, creative solutions to problems, or making a difference in the world at-large, follow this passion.
  • Classic graduation advice often includes the phrase “future leaders.” But, you may not be interested in being a leader. Remember, leaders need followers to be true leaders. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be a follower. Disregard the pressure to become a future leader, if this role does not interest you.
  • Consider taking on jobs and challenges that your peers do not want. You might stand high above the crowd of naysayers, landing lucrative positions that your peers can only dream about, but will never achieve.

Whether you are a new graduate or a grizzled veteran of the workforce, it’s never too late to start. Consider this advice that you should have received, but did not, as the launch pad for your future success.

Dare to dream. As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you fail, you’ll be among the stars.” Use this advice as you see fit.

 

Source: Harvard Business Review:  http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/05/the_graduation_advice_we_wish.html