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Not your regular commencement speech

Not your regular commencement speech

Seeing all the posts this week for what celebrity or company leader was doing a commencement speech at what fancy college made me think about who did the commencement speech for my college graduation. I don’t know. I really can’t remember. I guess I could figure it out, call some friends, look up a video, but really, I don’t care. It must not have made an impact on my career choices.

Then I started thinking about what I would say if I was ever asked to speak at a commencement. I’d want to cut through the feel good bullshit and leave the students with a harsh dose of reality. I feel it would be a disservice to them if I sugar coated the realities of the world they would experience. Writing this post, I assume I will kill any and all chances of ever speaking at a commencement, and well, I’m ok with that.

Here are my top 10 pieces of advice for anyone graduating:

    1. Make friends with everyone. And I mean everyone. If you think you are too good to be friendly to a person because they clean the office, then you are an idiot. One day, that person may just run their own business and be looking for someone with your skill set. And they may not want to talk to you…asshole.
    2. Don’t be an asshole. Really, don’t. I don’t care if you are the most talented designer, or architect or lawyer, whatever, no one wants to work with an asshole. In most businesses, the pool of people that jump from company to company is pretty small. You’re reputation will follow you around. I’ve seen it happen. People ask me all the time if I know this or that person because they just interviewed them and wanted the real story. I tell it like it is. Don’t be an asshole.
    3. Work your ass off. Go in early. Show some loyalty and dedication. If you finish your projects, ask around if any of your coworkers or bosses need any help. Say YES! Never say No. People will want to work with you.
    4. Always keep learning. Just because you’ve graduated, doesn’t mean you know anything. Matter of fact, you probably know 5% of what goes on in the real world. Be a sponge. Soak up knowledge from everyone, your peers and your bosses.
    5. Love what you do. Seriously. Make sure whatever job you have, you work 110%. The only way to do that is to put your heart and soul into it. Now, I’m not stupid. You may have to get a job to pay bills until the job you want is available, but never stop grinding for the real job you want.
    6. Don’t complain. Nobody cares. I was working 3 jobs at one point to make ends meet and you know what, no one cared. Do what you have to do. Chances are, you won’t be making six figures right out of school. If you do, good for you, and I hate you.
    7. Set your goals. Where do you want to be five years from now? Set a plan in action and make it happen.
    8. Get up off your ass. A job isn’t going to come knock on your door. Go get it. Make some calls. Send some emails. Make an effort. And if you don’t hear back from anyone in a week. Do it all over again. It will be discouraging. It won’t be easy.
    9. Personal branding. Branding, never heard of it? Not a designer? Doesn’t matter. If you want to be a lawyer, an accountant, or whatever, present yourself online and offline as a professional. Don’t think recruiters or hiring mangers check social media? Guess again. They do. If you want a really good presentation on branding, see below.
    10. Join LinkedIn. If you haven’t already, do it. Set up a good profile pic, make sure it’s not you drunk at a party. Look the part. Connect with people. First your network. Then, look at companies you want to work at and try to connect with people there. Join conversations in groups. Do work. Yes, do work before you get work.

I hope this helps.

I leave you with 4 more things.

I recently read Corporate Awesome Sauce: Success Rules for Generation Y by Richie Etwaru and found it to be really useful for anyone starting a corporate job, especially right out of college. He writes about real life examples and how he dealt with them. What worked and what didn’t. It’s a very quick read that provides a lot of value.

A great presentation on personal branding from Nunzio Esposito:

The best commencement speeches of 2015:

The best commencement speech of 1989!!!


About mchiaviello

Currently, Associate Creative Director, Brand Experience at Hook & Loop, Infor’s creative think-tank. A creative leader and team player with over 12 years of professional experience in art direction and design in agency and corporate settings. Successfully launched 360˚ campaigns across print, digital, direct mail and TV.

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