Dear Graduates of High School & College-
You have been told a lot of things by a lot of well meaning individuals on the way to the end at which you find yourself. You have been told things by your parents, your teachers, your counselors, your professors and even your crazy Aunt Ida.
But now, I’m going to tell you something that none of them may have had either the wherewithal or the gumption to mention. I’m going to try to do it gently, but, as a famous man once said “The Truth isn’t mean, it’s just the Truth.”
So….here we go…
Life is hard. Your grades, those letters that you spent a lot of time, sweat and—in some cases—blood, to get don’t matter a hill of beans to anybody outside of this institution from which you find yourself escaping.
Those little letters (and numbers in some cases) actually serve to hobble you and handicap you in venues outside of here.
The attainment of them has twisted your thinking into believing that there is only one way of doing, thinking, and being, when, in actuality, there are an infinite number of ways of thinking, doing, and being and no one can tell you which one is the best.
This realization is the chief thing that makes life hard for the first five years after you leave here. There are right and wrong decisions, but there are no definite decisions.
Employers don’t care about how smart you are.
You are the smartest generation to ever graduate from educational institutions that haven’t changed their approach to education significantly since World War 2 (it was something that happened in between the end of the Great Depression and the end of Jim Crow. Google it.) and no one outside of these walls cares about your level of intellectual intelligence. Unless you’re a doctor or engineer.
Employers only care about you showing up, doing the work, not complaining or bad mouthing them either in person or online, and then taking their check and going home to your one-bedroom, badly light and poorly heated apartment.
- They don’t care about your student loan debt.
- They don’t care that you fed kids in Kenya last year.
- They don’t care that you have an active Youtube.com channel with 30,000 hits.
Employers are really…really…really…narrowly focused.
They only care about how much your work adds to their bottom line. In business speak, this is called “added value.”
And most of your bosses, i.e. employers, supervisors, managers and others above you, who will hire you, are people that never graduated college and couldn’t wait to get away from high school, or who drank their way through college and ten years later made anywhere between $250,000 and $1,000,000.
And all your intellectual capacity won’t matter a hill of beans to them.
Develop something, anything that you own.
Look, social media is great for Snap Chatting to your friends, knocking other people on Twitter or getting all hot and bothered about the Ukraine or social justice on Facebook, but these platforms can also be used to build a project, an idea or—even a business—that YOU care about.
This road, the road through entrepreneurship—is hard, heartbreaking, long, and lonely and will not be materially fulfilling for the first ten years that you are doing it.
- Almost everyone will tell you that you’re crazy.
- Almost everyone will silently cheer for your failure.
- Almost everyone will tell you about their half-baked ideas.
But if you can survive all of that, you can have something that no one in any previous generation has had for a very long time: Positional financial security.
Or, you’ll crash and burn and fail.
But, at least you won’t have another $150,000 of student loans in your life, chipping away at your financial, emotional, marital (some of you out here WILL get married) and psychological health.
I will not close with the maxim that many do to “follow your passion.” The reason I won’t is because the Greek root of the work passion really means to “work unceasing.”
I will close by encouraging you to work.
So…go do that.
Go to work.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org