It’s that time of the year in America where the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, and college seniors are graduating. Which means they have earned the opportunity to sit through a two to four-hour event called their graduation. They get to listen to some politician, alumni, business owner, author, etc. tell them that their life will be whatever they want it to be.
Over the years there have been many commencement speeches that have gone viral. A few that come to mind is the famous Steve Jobs at Stanford, the Conan O’Brien address, Oprah, and a few others.
Since I have not been contacted by any college or university to provide a commencement speech, I thought that I would write one instead. There may be some variations of what I am about to say in some of the speeches given this year, but these are my words. These are the words I think college graduates need to hear.
Congratulations on your accomplishment today. I want to congratulate you on your successful completion of another hoop you jumped through on this path in life.
Although many people started the journey with you four, five, six, seven, and maybe even more years ago, you are the ones that stuck it out and finished your requirements. You showed up everyday, and provided answers on tests that your teachers and professors already knew the answers to. You finished what you started. And that is what we are here to celebrate. Because that is the one thing that you can takeaway from your time here at your college or university. The rest of it you will now learn on the job.
Here are the five things I want to share with you that will be more important to you than anything you have learned up until this point. These five things weren’t talked about by your professors, they weren’t discussed because school wasn’t set up to teach you things like this. These things are things you have to learn on your own. And I want to share these things with you now.
Pay back your student loans:
You borrowed the money. You have to pay it back. You can complain about it all you want. But you made a choice to take the money out. You made the choice to sign the papers. Now you have to pay them back. Don’t expect anyone else to pay them for you. Don’t expect the government to forgive them for you. You borrowed the money, so pay it back.
And my suggestion is to do it as quickly as possible. Don’t go and buy a car. Don’t go and get an apartment to fancy shoes. Take any and all money you get and pay back your student loans as quickly as you can. The sooner you get this debt out of your life, the better. You owe to yourself and you actually owe the country, or whoever else you borrowed the money from to pay this money back.
Learn a skill as soon as you can:
Yes, I know you just spent the last several years in college learning. However, college, well most colleges and universities, are just teaching you how to learn. They also teach some principles that you have hopefully learned along the way, like showing up on time, prioritization, time management, making decisions, etc. But for the most part you haven’t really learned anything else. I am not discounting these skills, they are important, but they are the standard in the real business world.
You now have to learn how to influence other people. You have to learn how to sell. You have to learn how to effectively lead people, learn communication styles that work, etc. Yes, these are all skills that are not taught as well as they could be at the post secondary education level, but are the skills that are required in the workplace and the marketplace to get things done.
I encourage you to find a great company as soon as you can, and start learning the skills that lead to results for your company. This is what the marketplace will pay you for.
You can’t say whatever you want:
I know we live in America and our first amendment right is the right to free speech. However, something that you might not have learned, is that there are consequences for you saying whatever you want.
For example: If your company provides tools and materials that are used in the coal industry, and you think coal is a bad thing. You can’t go around saying that the coal industry is bad. You can and will be fired. My hope is that you wouldn’t take the position to begin with, however if you find yourself in that position, remember, that whoever pays your company is the customer. And if you make your customers mad, they will no longer want to pay your company. Which means fewer people will work there, and if you are the reason for this, then you will no longer work there.
Your boss, and yes you will always have a boss, if you work for a company you will have a manager. If you work for yourself, you will have a customer. Customers are kind of like bosses. If you don’t provide them what they asked for, they will no longer pay you. If you insult them or hurt their business in any way. They will no longer pay you. It is kind of like being fired. Except they don’t tell you that. Your boss on the other hand, will just relieve you of your duties.
I am not saying don’t communicate your message if you disagree, but once again this is a skill that requires tact and practice to perfect. You didn’t learn this in school, you will need to learn it on the job.
Your company pays for value
For every hour you work for your company, they will pay you accordingly to the value you bring to that company during that hour. If you show up on time, can speak to customers, and help them resolve their problems. The company will pay you a wage for your services. The value will be determined by what the company things that task is worth.
If you can show up, speak to customers, help them resolve their problems, and identify other products the customer could be using with your company. Your company will pay you more because you are bringing more value to their company. Instead of two skills, you now have three or four.
So the lesson here for you is if you want to make more money, find ways to bring more value to your company.
This season is over, but don’t wait too long to start the next.
No matter how long it took you to graduate college, this season is now over. It is no different from a NFL Football Season or a College Football season. They don’t last forever, and once they are over, they are over.
In the NFL and College football, as soon as the season is over the next season begins. Which means after about a week off, if that, the players are right back in the weight room, back on the field, or back in the film room studying schemes to prepare for the next season. You have to do the same thing.
Although your college season is over, your new season begins. And you have to study and invest time and resources into your skill development so you are ready to take on the challenges that will surely come in this new season for you.
I have watched too many people over the years rely on their college education and what they learned five, ten, and even twenty years ago to still be relevant for them in the present. If you don’t enhance your skills, you will be left behind. You wont be able to keep up.
I wish all of you luck in your next steps on your journey.
Thanks Brian Willett
To your success and your future.