“To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.” — Friedrich August von Hayek.
Last night I had a dream in which I was asked to give a college commencement address. No doubt I had this dream due to all of the news coverage of college tuitions, student loans, and college commencement speakers in the news lately.
I have been to several college commencements and found the selected speakers to be boring, left-wing, and not telling the graduates what they really need to hear. Most of them are mere extensions of the professors they have been indoctrinated by for the past four years. They know nothing of the “real world” and love to pontificate on their lofty ideals of the utopian society.
With this in mind I decided to write my own commencement address, an address I will never be asked to deliver.
Graduates, parents, and faculty I am pleased to be here to share with you some of the knowledge of the real world I have gained through 55 years of my professional working years.
First of all I want to congratulate you on earning your degree. But the truth is that your degree alone isn't going to be enough to assure your success in the real world. Your degree will look good on your resume or CV, but is merely something that will get you past the first cut in the human resources department. Without work experience you may not make the second cut — a review of your resume by the head of the department that would hire you. In fact some companies like IBM do not usually care about the degree — they are more concerned with work and life experience.
In the real world employers don't care much about your degree, your happiness, your income or really much of anything that has to do with you. They care about what you can do for them. And from this point on, that's how you have to think. Businesses exist to be profitable. It is your job to help make them profitable. If you know how to do that, how to be worth more than you cost, then you have value in the workplace. If you don't know how to be worth more than you cost, then employers will pass you over and find someone else. Businesses exist on profit for their sustainability, and without it there are no jobs for their current employees.
If you do make the first or second cut and are called in for an interview don’t talk about the wonderful things you did college. Don’t talk about your grades unless asked. Don’t pull out the wonderful paper or thesis you wrote. The interviewer is not really interested nor does he have the time to read it. Don’t start asking about how much you should make or he benefits the firm will offer you. This will be covered by the human resources department once you make the short list.
There are several things you should do: Firstly, show up on time and dress respectfully. Don’t come into the interview with a ring in your nose or lip and a big tattoo showing. Sit straight and be respectful.
Secondly, talk about the company. By now you should have researched the firm and know something of their culture, products or services, clients, and reputation. Have some idea of how you can be a benefit to the firm. What can you do that will add to their bottom line.
Thirdly, don’t spout out your political beliefs. The company is not interested in how many demonstrations you participated in or how you feel about the big banks or corporate America. Remember you are looking to be hired by corporate America.
You will be competing with hundreds of other graduates for the position. Some will even have some applicable work experience and will go to the front of the line. This is the way it works. Firms are not in business to provide you with a job, they are only interested in hiring the most qualified for a job they need filled, a person they can count on to bring them a profit and please their customers or clients.
And by the way you may be asked to take a drug test and if you drive for the job using a company car or your own vehicle your DMV record will be checked for DUIs. Also, if you job required a security clearance your criminal and arrest record will be checked.
Look at what it really takes to be successful in the real world.
You have to take responsibility. Your life, your results, your success, happiness, health and prosperity are up to you. When it turns out well, you get the credit and when it doesn't work out the way you wanted it to, you get the blame. It isn't up to anyone else to make sure you are successful, it's always up to you, so be responsible.
Respect your employer enough to be on time and give them your personal best every day because that is what they are paying for. Respect your boss, even when you think he is an idiot because he is still your boss and deserves your respect. Respect your coworkers so they will respect you and your customers because they pay you.
You will be surprised to learn how many of your potential co-workers have views diametrically opposed to yours and the left-wing professors you have been placating for the past four years.
This is not an academic exercise; it’s about your future and your life. The fun and carefree days of college are over. It’s time for you to get out of the wagon and begin pulling your share of the load. Your potential employer is not concerned with how much student loan debt you have or how much money you think you need to life a live style you have been told you are entitled to. These things are your responsibilities, not your employer’s or society.
Have clear priorities. Your time, your energy and your money will always go to what is important to you. If looking cute is important to you then you will spend all of your money at the mall. If being financially secure is important to you then you will make sure that you save, invest and live on less than you earn. Be like the ant, not the grasshopper and you will have a happier and more fulfilling life by being secure in your latter years.
It's about work and excellence. Regardless of what others may tell you, it's not about your passion — as I know people who are passionately incompetent. It's not loving what you do or being happy every day. You aren't paid to be happy on the job; you are paid to do your job. Success always comes down to hard work and excellence. And it takes both. Hard work alone won't cut it. I know people who work really hard yet aren't any good at what they do so it doesn't matter. And I know people who are excellent at what they do but they don't work hard enough at it to make any difference. A person who has a passion for, say engineering, and isn’t very good at will not last long. On the other hand very good engineer who only wants to work nine to five will also not last long.
Find a mentor. This is one of the best ways to get ahead in any job. Find someone who is good at the job and is considered a top employee. It may be a fellow employee or a supervisor. Don’t be concerned if other employees call you a “suck up” or other derogatory terms. Chances are they will not be with the firm very long. A mentor will guide you through the early years of your career and teach you the ropes — you will need a great deal of teaching. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut unless you are asking questions pertinent to your job or responsibilities. Perhaps after several years on the job you may be a mentor. Businesses love good mentors as they take some of the load off the bosses and help employees develop into their full potential.
One more piece of advice before closing. I once heard a commencement address many years ago and the only memorable line I remember is when the speaker said that you should decide on where you want to live and then try to find a job there. Your life will be happier and you will do better at your job because you will be motivated by your environment, even if the wage scale is a bit lower. I think this is good advice.
So work hard and be excellent at what you do. And remember, if any one can do it then anyone can do it. You are not the only kid on the block.
Thank you for allowing me to give this address and I hope you will take these remarks to heart. They will not only help you find a job, they will help you be good at and successful at it.