The misplaced graduation speech
The Kansas City Star
If the bachelor degree is the new high school degree, then the messaging is hitting the wrong audience. The economic landscape changed as well as the job market. College graduates don’t need to hear how they must take action to do good work in the world they enter. High school students need to hear that before going to college or starting a job.
The democratization of higher education produced many benefits, but in doing so, it weakens the degree. That is, the more people with the degree, the less distinctive it becomes. Every parent wants their child to get ahead of its peers. It’s harder to get ahead if all children obtain a college degree.
Distinguishing oneself means taking on responsibility, leading projects, starting clubs, organizing events. College, more than high school is one of the best places to hone these skills. You set your own schedule; you make your own way. Modern employers want to see portfolios of what students accomplish, not just straight top grades.
Unfortunately the motivating speeches come at the end of the process instead of the beginning. Inspiring graduation speeches are similar to actually attending your own funeral.
You get to hear all sorts of wonderful things and reflect on missed opportunities.
Of course I’m not saying life ends with the end of college, but merely suggesting that such an inspiring speech might be more appropriate to high school graduates, many of whom choose not to go to college or can’t afford it.
This raises some socio-economical issues. Only a small sample of schools will be able to afford expensive celebrity speakers and many will not. Critics might say it’s unfair. True, but graduating from high school seems like a good time to discover life isn’t fair.
On the flip side, we live in a world that wants to be both global and hyper-local. I recommend that high schools seek out local celebrities or leaders from their community to speak. Wisdom need not come with a large price tag.
The best advice I can think of for anyone, high school or college, comes from Ghostbusters. Dan Akroyd, complaining to Bill Murray about being fired from the university states, “You don’t know what it’s like. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”
It’s true, the world wants results. You may be a helluva nice guy and kindness is good, but it does not pay the bills.
When searching for a job or creating a company, think less about profit and more about why you want to do a job. Regardless of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes and industry as tech, manufacturing, lumber, agriculture, or service, they are really all services.
Think about that. No matter your industry, think about how you can service others. If you can do that, then kindness and goodwill might actually pay the bills.
Tucker Slosburg currently he lives in Kansas City and works for Tromans-Slosburg Investments.