Helping The Graduates

Helping The Graduates

We’ve got millions of college and high school graduates joining us in the work world (or hoping to) over the next several weeks. If you know one (or anyone) who could use some encouragement in the right direction, below are several thoughts, ideas, videos, and messages that might help them get their hearts and minds in the right place … sooner rather than later. (You might enjoy them too.)

*The thought above came from thinking about what I’d like to hear from a recent graduate in a job interview (and what I often share with my kids that they’ll need to communicate through their words and subsequent actions). They wouldn’t have to say those exact words, but it’s what I’d need to feel would happen if they worked here.

My experience is that relatively few recent graduates bring much more than a promise to their first real-world work. And, that’s okay. It’s really all any of us bring to the game in the beginning. The job is fulfilling the promise and then holding to the promise for the rest of our lives. (The ‘holding to the promise’ might end up being the biggest challenge.)

And while you and I can and should help at the beginning and throughout… the ultimate choice to commit will always be theirs.

Make time and have a conversation with a graduate about some of the things you wish you’d known and done when you were just starting out.

Set up a lunch and help them become aware of something earlier so they might make one or two better moves than you did. (If everyone receiving this email did this, we’d collectively put more than 100,000 solid coaching sessions into the universe. That’s good karma.)

Drawn speech bubbles

Encourage them to care and work hard. Help them understand that their work’s purpose is ultimately to make good things happen for other people … that the best chance they have at doing well and enjoying more of their days will be by becoming valuable to someone else (by focusing on how much they can give with their time rather than how little of their time they can give).

Remind them to hang out with the engaged people (the Smovers & the 212ers) and to be an inspiration to others. Encourage them to minimize any time spent with the disgruntled among us. (No Gomos. No D-grunts.)

This is how they’ll increase their chance of having more choices in their lives (or put another way … more control) on how they live (what they do for their work, what they eat, who they invite into their lives) and how they enjoy their time (where they vacation, the hobbies they take on, the causes they support, the people they spend time with). And choice is good … so much more enjoyable.

Consider a discussion around keeping their ego in check, creating more luck for themselves, or how to bounce back from mistakes and failures (a huge work/ life challenge they’ll certainly face often if they’re pushing things … two-twelving things … which you hope is the case … for all of us).

Encourage them to minimize losing the countless hours of their lives that you and I have lost to excuses, drama, and complaints (those we’ve given to others and those others have given to us).

Introduce them to some of the wasteful thinking they should avoid (the top 11 ‘drag you down, get in the way of good things’ thoughts).

Send them a link to a great commencement speech or video with an important message.

Below are my current favorites. I re-read these for inspiration once or twice a year myself. If you have one that’s not listed, please let me know.

This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

(3000 words … 15 minutes to read)

This one’s intense. So brutally good and true, I can’t stand it. (Really.)

He reminds us of the true day-to-day responsibility of our lives. Read it yourself to be sure you’re comfortable with it before forwarding it. Wallace lost his fight with depression, so you need to think about the potential effect that might have on your reader.

For me, the second-to-last paragraph holds some of the most important words (reminders) I’ve ever read. It’s the paragraph that begins with … "Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings." and ends with "the really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day." (very Smovish and very Love Your People)

Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie by Michael Lewis

(1900 words … 10 minutes to read)

This is a baccalaureate speech at Princeton where Lewis (who wrote several bestselling books – The Blind Side, Moneyball, The Big Short, etc.) "graduated from Princeton without ever having published a word of anything, anywhere."

Drawn fortune cookie

It’s a wonderful reminder of how chance plays a big part in our lives. "And with luck comes obligation," he says. I love the entitlement reminder toward the end, too.

The Love of Learning by David McCullough

(1700 words … less than 10 minutes)

My favorite recommendation from McCullough … "And please, please, do what you can to cure the verbal virus that seems increasingly rampant among your generation. I’m talking about the relentless, wearisome use of the words, "like," and "you know," and "awesome," and "actually." Listen to yourselves speak."

To accompany McCullough’s thought, you might encourage them to watch this video of Taylor Mali’s wonderful and inspiring poem on the importance of communicating like a grown-up (below). See my specific communication tips under the video.

Encourage deeper care and attention. (the fundamentals behind wonderful work ... less than 30 minutes to read). Shop Books

I frequently remind younger people that better communication skills will likely add tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to their career earnings. This includes not just sentence structure but also better enunciation of words (a challenge I notice most often among young men) and less high-pitched tones and "vocal fry" (vocal fry is a term for that well-known creaky-voice sound we’re hearing so much now … I notice it most with young women but do hear it occasionally from young men too).

10 Ways to Avoid Mucking Up the World Any Worse Than It Already Is by Russell Baker

(2200 words … 11 minutes)

If your graduate is in a rush, let her know she can skip the first third of the speech and go straight to the list of 10 Ways.

Drawn ear with sound waves
One of my favorite points from Baker … "Listen once in a while. It’s amazing what you can hear … or sometime when you’re talking up a storm so brilliant, so charming that you can hardly believe how wonderful you are, pause just a moment and listen to yourself. It’s good for the soul to hear yourself as others hear you, and next time maybe, just maybe, you will not talk so much, so loudly, so brilliantly, so charmingly, so utterly shamefully foolishly."

Number 10 (Smile) is Smovishly important, as well.

Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz

(5900 words … 30 minutes)

Probably not a great one to start with for those with limited attention spans but it’s wonderful insight on the importance of solitude and thought. It’s a lecture that was given to a plebe class at West Point (not a commencement speech).

Find What You Love by Steve Jobs

(2200 words … about 10 minutes to read)

A well-known classic from one of history’s business icons. A lesson in chance, living your verse, and gratitude.

Encourage them to Cross The Line and become a Smover and 212er for their employer (and for their lives).

Give them a copy of one of my little books or booklets (all of them can be read in less than 30 minutes … Cross The Line is only 4 minutes … less than the length of this blog post) or send them a link to the video versions of the messages.

Let them know about the 3 things that might challenge them in their efforts to Cross The Line … the real challenges, ‘those’ people (especially those people), and themselves. Let them know how they get past those things (by choosing to commit, working hard, focusing, and being resilient).

Drawn 212 briefcase

Or, give them a copy of each of my books as a kick-off to the real world (use this link for our boxed sets and combo packs).

Maybe a framed Declaration of Contribution for their desk or an inspiring poster would be motivating.

And 3 more things I love…

This 6-minute video on gratitude and living in the moment, Kid President, and Rita Pierson on the importance of human connections.

Okay. I’ll stop now.