Connector Beth

Non-profit professional. Care deeply about family, friends and community. Love to problem-solve. Love to laugh. Love to read. Love to learn.

Words I Would Say at Your Graduation…..

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It’s commencement/graduation season. So many people are graduating from high school, 2-year programs, 4-year programs, Master’s degrees, and beyond. Every ceremony will have a speaker who will try to impart words of great wisdom. I wish you, and all of you, well. Very well, in fact. Well enough that the speech is memorable, inspirational and remembered, and well enough that you find jobs/careers you love and that pay enough for make your lives not stressful…..

Several years ago, I was asked to speak at the Winona Rotary Job Shadow program. This pairs high school seniors with professionals in our community, to give the students a chance to see if the careers they might like to do are actually the careers they would like to do. Kudos to everyone involved in this program, from the organizers, to the school counselors who help make the connections, to the professionals who are willing to give a day of their time to 17- and 18-year-olds.

I was so glad to be able to speak to the students (coincidentally, the fall our son was a senior). At first, I had no idea what to say, but then I boiled it down to six “simple” steps. I still stand by these ideas…. there may be many others I missed, and I may have missed the boat on some of them, but here’s what I think young people should think about as they are considering their futures:

#1 – At this point in your life, your choices are nearly endless.

Most adults are asking you what you want to do, what you are planning to do, what you are going to do. If you know the answers, great. But most young adults don’t. And that’s ok. You are going to continue your education, or pursue a trade, or enter the military…. to see what you want (or DON’T want) to do. You have time. Be gracious with the adults; they are trying to engage you in conversation, and not trying to trap you into anything.

#2 – You don’t have to make lasting life decisions right now, or even in the next couple years.

The next few years are a time to explore. If you’re going to college, take gen. ed. classes, but also explore some things you may never have thought about. Even if you’re pretty sure you know what you want to do, take a class or two that may not seem practical, but is interesting to you. You never know where it might lead.

#3 – What you want to do now is probably not what you’ll do your whole life; AND More than likely, the job that you have when you’re 40 will either be something you’ve never heard of, or doesn’t even exist today.

#4 – Be open to learning, during your entire life. Take advantage of any and all opportunities that are made available to you. Be open to new experiences.

#5 – Learn from every experience you have.

#6 – And, finally – Figure out what you’re passionate about, what you love. See if you can make a life following that passion.

Finding your passion and following your passion will take you so much farther than Plotting Out a Career Path. Now, if those things happen to merge, so much the better. But, the passion and the dreams will be much better over the course of your lifetime.

Good luck. Congratulations. And best wishes as you find your future and your goals.


One thought on “Words I Would Say at Your Graduation…..

  1. Sometimes people can derail your lifelong learning path with “that’s not going to make money.” For example, I wanted to be a high school business teacher until my father, an auditor, talked me out of it. “Teachers don’t make money anyway.” It was all about the dollar for him. I followed him into accounting and, while I was relatively good at it, it was soul-sucking, mind numbing work. He was happy and I was miserable and screw that business. Fast forward to my current profession as a University business professor and I have the best of both worlds. And, while he’s an unemployed, bitter former auditor who loved to play the bad guy, I’m making excellent scratch and love my job. Moral of the story? Do what you love; the money will follow.

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