To the Graduates of 2013 (and Beyond):
Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Truth, and I will be your commencement speaker for the moment. I go into hiding a lot, and I’m usually lavishly adorned with embellishments or heavily disguised as rhetoric. Anyway, I’m here to wish you all the best as you begin a new phase of your lives, whether that’s college, graduate school, or the ‘real world’. The latter two are places where I frequent, usually accompanied with a smack in your face and a realization that life, as you’ve known it for the past x amount of years, is over. This speech may seem like it, but I promise it will simply be a love tap.
First, congratulations for completing what you started. That’s something that many folks actually don’t do. It’s hard to see a project all the way through until the end, but this is something of which you should be very proud. I’m sure many of you worked hard—“hard” being a subjective term—and have had a merry time along the way. But if I may, here are 6 things I really think you should know before heading out to your next adventure:
You are entitled to nothing. Your degree that you’ve worked so hard to earn? Hate to break it to you, but it will be one of the least significant factors of whether or not you will be hired. It is also not an indicator of your guaranteed success in graduate school — if that’s the path you have chosen. When applying to jobs, your degree is not special when thousands of other applicants have the same exact one. What other experiences or skills have you acquired to make yourself a useful human being? If you’re fortunate to have already been hired, it will mean nothing to your workplace once you start the job. If you have big dreams, be prepared to work the hardest you ever have and hopefully ever will. You are the underdog now. Not everyone is cheering for you. Do the dirty work and the things you won’t want to do, because that is how you will start climbing the ladder.
Your communication skills are crucial to your success. Hopefully all that time and money invested into your education taught you how to at least read and write. Yes? Good. Now make sure your resume has absolutely no errors on it, use proper grammar and etiquette in all professional written communication, and learn how to speak both publicly and to others. Knowing both how to communicate well will help you with everything: interviews, phone calls, negotiations, etc. Cultivate manners. Say “please” and “thank you”. Don’t overshare. Be courteous and respectful to everyone, and do not underestimate the power of small talk.
There are a lot of assholes in the world, and you will encounter most of them. There are people who are going to want to see you fail. If you’re unlucky enough, they are going to do everything in their power to make it happen. There are people who are going to take advantage of you, be fake to you, and treat you with the utmost disrespect. Some will break your heart; others will try to break your spirit. You will have to learn how to not only deal with this, but also how to recover and then prevent them from doing so. It won’t be easy, but it will teach you everything your sheltered courses could not.
There is goodness in the world, and you should make something happen. There are people who are going to want you to win. If you’re lucky, they’re going to do everything in their power to make it happen. It’s up to you to return the favor. And there are people who will have no power to help you, but you will have it in order to help them—and you should. If not, there’s something you haven’t quite learned about humanity in the past however many years of your life.
Take care of yourself, because no one else will. You are responsible for yourself now. You should be holding yourself accountable for everything—expenses, habits, actions, words, exercise, food, etc. Save your money as much as you can. Learn how to survive on as little as possible. Make an effort to get some form of exercise every day. Maintain your best relationships. Make sure you’re working hard but playing hard, too.
Transitioning isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be really difficult. It’s neither going to be fun, nor pretty, nor glamorous nor what you want. There will be nights full of tears, questioning of your self-worth and capabilities, weeks living on packs of ramen noodles, and wondering if this is all worth it in the end.
So maybe it isn’t different from what you just went through for the past few years.
Congratulates, graduates. Although you begin your new lives soon, just remember that no matter what, you have been, and always will be, a fly, fierce, on-your-ish Bauce.