The View from My Section – Advice for the Class of 2022

Big day, yes, it is. Lots of questions, everyone wants to know what you’re going to do next. “Where are you going? What are you doing?”, they ask. You’ve just spent 13 years in secondary school and/or 4-5 years in college where you had a schedule to hold to, a regimen to follow every week, homework to finish, tests to study for, meetings to get to, and projects to complete. And finally…finally, you’ve finished, and all anyone wants to know from you is what are you going to do next. 

It’s stressful, I know. Not unlike what you will eventually face the rest of your life in the routine cocktail party question, “So, what do you do?” We’re a society defined by our jobs. Like it or not, that is who we are, or at least that’s how the world sees it. If you’re successful, you relish this question. You probably go on far too long in your description, to where they lose interest, and occasionally wish they hadn’t asked. If you’re not successful, you try to avoid this question with a very short generic description and quickly pivot to a question about them. This usually works, because most people are more interested in themselves than they are in others. Sad, but true, nonetheless. 

The answer to that question, however, really doesn’t matter in the end, because the concept of success is measured by two things—the amount of money you make, and the other party’s perception of whatever it is you do. Naturally, a large bank account in the modern world denotes success, that’s an easy one to see. The second, however, is a little more difficult to anticipate. How others perceive your work. You could make lots of money, but hate your position and have no job security in the industry. Or you could love your job but not make much, or somewhere in between. The end result will be defined by whether the other party likes what you do, respects what you do and whom you work for, or is intrigued and interested in some aspect of what you do. 

Are you noticing a theme here? Perceptive ones will quickly pick up on how our true measure of success in this world is deemed by how others see it. Sounds crazy, huh? As a graduate, I know I wouldn’t like to think, “You mean I did all this to get someone else’s approval?” As crazy as it sounds, it’s not that far from the truth. After all, if you’re a college graduate. you’re looking for an employer’s approval. If you’re a high school graduate, you could be looking for the same, or a college admission rep’s approval. So, yes, in a way, you did do all this for someone else’s approval, at least part of it. 

Don’t feel bad, it’s just part of the journey we all take. Our initiation into the world. We want to think it’s idealistic, but that’s not always how it turns out. But, in my experience, there is some advice I can pass on to help you perhaps even achieve both: another’s approval, and your own job satisfaction at the same time. 

I’ve had lots of jobs over the years. Ones that loved me, ones that took advantage, some that saw the value of getting the work of two or three people out of one, and ones where you’re just another cog in the wheel. From this diversity of experience across industries and job titles, I’ve learned there’s one thing that will most certainly get their approval, at least initially. Whatever you decide to do—be really good at it. And what is the best way to do that? Determine what you’re good at, and then move your life in that direction. You may not even love it at first, but if you’re good at it, success will likely follow. This is what you’re after right now, initial success, beginning the next phase of life on the right path. 

Often our egos are inflated somewhat by our perception of what we’re good at. Don’t fear, the world will let you know. Sometimes, in strange ways. For example, on the downside, some will find your skills and talent threatening or as diminishing their appeal in some way. The results can often not be so good in those instances. It happens in the real world. 

However, don’t let this stop you. Forge ahead; if not initially working in your strength area, gradually move in that direction, be it where you are, or someplace new. Regardless, perfect your talent, polish the stone, and in the end, that’s what will get you the prize. Trust me on this! 

To the graduates of the Class of 2022, I wish you Good Luck and God Speed; and may your glass always be half-full.

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