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College Graduation Speech

May 1, 2018

If you are like me, you probably will not pay much attention to the graduation speaker. When I was sitting where you are when I graduated college, I was fooling around with my friends, thinking about the partying afterwards and feeling proud of myself for having accomplished the college thing and receiving a degree that could never be taken away from me. I will always be a college graduate – and so will you.

You finished college, but it is just a beginning, albeit an auspicious beginning, of the rest of your life. Entering college was an important move, but not irreversible and not that consequential if you decided you didn’t like the school, or your major, or even going to college. You could get a do-over; and until you have that sheepskin, many do-overs. But, when you step out of here, your do-overs become limited. They are limited not only by you, but by the circumstances of where you were working and what you were working on, and who you were working with. The more you work doing something that turns out not to be your thing, the harder it will be for a do-over.

The reality is you get profiled – not racially, but professionally. Whatever you start doing labels you in that silo. Certain jobs or industries are easily portable, but not as many as you might believe. I can give you a lot of for instances, but don’t want to bore you anymore than you already are, so will skip the litany of examples. What I will tell you is that you need to choose your first job carefully, and while you should think of yourself as starting a career in that organization what you are really doing is starting your career as a free agent. You will actually be continuously looking for better opportunities.

If you work for the right organization they will make sure you understand the opportunities with them and you will grow professionally with the right type of experience while continually learning new things and will be compensated based on the level you attain and will grow into and not where you’ve been and accomplished on their time. So, I just told you three things you should always be concerned about:

  1. Growing professionally with right experience
  2. Always learning new things
  3. Being compensated appropriately

All three should always be present, but two out of three keeps people longer than is good for the staff person and the employer. Actively manage your career. Your currency is your experience and what you know. No matter the cost to your employer and what they think, you will always own your experiences, with interesting and varied experiences greater in value than dull, boring trite experiences, and you will always own what you learn. Learning from dead ended bosses in dead ended jobs provides much less currency than the opposite of that. The salary you are paid is relatively meaningless to your employer, but very important to you. It is also a measurement tool of your value to the organization and places you in a tranche with others you work with. Make sure you are properly paid.

You are the CEO of your free agency. Manage it well and maybe someday you’ll be giving a well thought out and carefully measured graduation speech that no one will really care about.

Congratulations on your well-earned completion of your college career, and good luck on the commencement of your free agency.

Ed Mendlowitz

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