Monday, June 11, 2012

Graduates: Prepare for A Slap of Reality, Because You're Not Special

Teacher David McCullough Jr. gave an interesting commencement speech to the
Wellesley High School graduates that can be summed up pretty much in a few words. “You’re not special.” (The video of the speech is below.) It was a speech that should have been given to every high school and college student or graduates. Too many people are exiting school under the impression that a good job is a certainty and all the riches of the world will be thrown their way.

It doesn’t work that way, and it never did.

I finished my schooling in the early 1970s during a tough recession. I was lucky to get a temporary job, but I had to work 10 times harder than full time employees (and college grads) in order to get promoted to a full time job. That first job I landed was only one step up from the mail room, and I knew that if I ever wanted to move up, it would take hard work and patience. Since it was a recession, there were even many other people out there that wanted my lowly position, much less any job right above me. And forget negotiating salary or an increase – you took what they gave you and what the job grade allowed. It took me quite a few years, but I worked my way up the management ladder and eventually landed a position as a Vice President. During all my school days and despite the fact that I excelled in school, I was taught very early the harsh reality of life outside of school. I was told it was a “dog-eat-dog” world out there; there were tons of people out there just like me who wanted the same things I wanted, and it would not be easy to get noticed. It sounded bleak and depressing, but those words motivated me to constantly work hard and to never expect things to be handed to me.

Now it seems an entire generation has gone through school thinking that the world will bow at their feet once they graduate. They also think that a college degree means an automatic job paying big bucks. Sadly, the parents of these children seem to share the same delusion. David McCullough Jr.’s speech was something that many needed to hear. It was a slap of reality that hopefully will wake up subsequent students as they continue schooling, and also their parents who should be coaching their children for the harshness of the real world. Don’t wait for a commencement speech for a reality wake up call. It takes hard work to get a good job and hard work to keep it, and it’s a process that will repeat itself for decades. And unless you were born to wealthy family, everybody goes through the process – and there is nothing special about that.

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