It is extremely unlikely I will ever give a commencement speech in this lifetime. I’m really okay with that too because just the shortlist of People More Qualified than I is a group known as Everyone Else on the Planet. However, if I were ever asked, here is what I would like to say.
Class of 2017 graduates,
I want to take this opportunity to offer you the benefits of all the wisdom I’ve accumulated in the three decades since I was in your position: fresh out of college and about to enter the workforce bright eyed and ready to change the world. So
I will keep this short because Twentysomethings are a group with less memory retention than a litter of concussed amnesiac kittensplease remember the following as you move forward in life:
Corporate America sucks. You will likely get an entry level job that is more Sinecure than upwardly mobile career. (Unless you have connected parents BTW if your parents are rich and helping you out, you can skip the rest of this speech. The race is easier the closer you start from the finish line and why are you still here, don’t you have a new car to wreck?) The good news is as you won’t be burning a lot of brain cells, you will have a lot of downtime to work on your KSA: Knowledge, Skills and Ability. You might get lucky and work for a company that has good in-house training and continuous education initiative take advantage of it. If your company doesn’t offer this, it is up to you to seek it out on your own time. Your future depends on it.
Don’t move out of your parents home until you have to. Unless you really really have to such as having crazy strict, crazy religious, or just crazy dysfunctional, stick it out as long as you can. Pay your parents something in rent and pocket the rest into a savings account that you DO NOT TOUCH.
Learn to cook and pack a lunch. Not just a bunch of frozen TV dinners or weight watchers crap but actual food that you buy weekly at the grocery store. You will save money and eat more healthy.
Exercise and stop eating crap all the time. I’m not saying you have to sub salad for french fries at every meal, but eating good during the week will allow you some leeway on the weekends. Yes your young body can process most of that stuff now, especially if you are active, but there will come a time when you cannot burn off the double cheeseburger as easily as you once did.
You cannot recreate your college HeyDays. You can visit your college town for homecoming and/or College Prom* once, maybe twice and then stop. just stop. You are much older than even the oldest co-ed and it’s just creepy if you are trying to hook up with them. Also, be prepared to lose your college friends, or at least regulate 90% of them to acquaintances you hear from on birthdays and major holidays. Those nights of stayed up late talking about philosophy and sex and psychology and sex and politics, and sex…are over. They won’t have time to shoot the shit with you, especially if you live beyond easy visiting distance from one another.
Get a 2nd job working weekends or even a couple nights a week. It won’t kill you and the extra money will come in handy. It also limits the time at home with your parents if that’s a concern. Plus you might be able to pick up an auxiliary skill that augments those KSA I mentioned (you’re were paying attention at the beginning of this right?)
Finally, This is the best time in your life to screw up at virtually Anything! As long as you don’t do anything detrimental (think felony or debilitating meth habit) the consequences of failure are so much less serious now than they will ever be. Want to open a Seashell themed Coffee Shop? Go for it. Move across the country? No one is stopping you. Once you have a family, that all changes. You have more responsibilities – children, spouses, financial obligations. You might even have to take care of those pesky parents.
Best of luck to you, you’re gonna need it.
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