If I were to give a commencement address this year, it would be, well, short. That’s because short speeches are best, and most fondly, recalled. It would go something like this:
We’ve all seen a lot of headlines reporting inflation is at its highest in 40 years. That rang a bell.
I know what it’s like to leave the security and predictability of college life and venture into an economically uncertain world. I graduated this month precisely 40 years ago.
I remember envying friends just a few years older whose lives seemed so much more sorted. Now everything was changing – heck, Ma Bell was being broken up! That’s what we called the phone company – the only phone company. Suddenly, just making a call required choosing among things called “providers,” and “services.”
Because I attended a private liberal arts university, however, I knew I had options. I felt prepared to take on any challenge I put my mind to, and confident I’d succeed. For me that meant running an asphalt driveway sealing business with a friend of mine. We branded ourselves, took out ads and designed and distributed flyers (no Internet back then). We had never done those things, but we figured them out. The work was smelly and hot, but we worked for ourselves, and after a few months I had made enough money to travel cross-country. Being an American History graduate, I felt I should see the object of my studies.
That trip was followed by other career twists and turns including a gig as a restaurant host, followed by graduate school, legislative work and college stints that happily led to my current position at SCICU.
Why the trip down memory lane? The members of the Class of 1982 bear many of the same anxieties faced by, you, the Class of 2022, but we also share the prospect of unlimited possibilities. In 2019 Dell Technologies forecast that 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet!
Like my post-graduate experience, your career path will no doubt include curves and lane changes, even more than I faced. Making the most of those opportunities requires having the skills to adapt to new circumstances, to learn fast and to figure out how to succeed. In other words, having attended a private liberal arts college, you are eminently qualified for whatever you choose to take on.
Now, this is the part of the commencement address when I’m supposed to impart wisdom that, like a beacon, will direct you to success and fame. Sorry, I just have the flashlight on my cell phone, but I’ll give it a shot.
Don’t stress about your future, just pick a path. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you’ll have vital information you didn’t have before – you’ll now know what you don’t want to do, which will make it a lot easier to pick the better path for you.
And base your success on where you are, not where you’ve been.
I’m not sealing driveways, but I turned out OK.