5 Simple Pieces of Advice for Graduates

The World Is Changing Quickly, But Old School Skills Can Give an Edge

Commencement Ceremonies.

The calendar flips to May each year and commencement season commences.

Over the ensuing six weeks speakers - both student representatives and invited leaders from business, politics and non-profits - take to the dais to flatter, criticize and inspire the graduates in front of their family and friends.

Some will offer sweeping social commentaries.  Some will offer lessons from their accumulated experience.

  Some will offer simple advice.

Last year I wrote about the address given at the graduation I attended at Sonoma State.  The speaker Adam Braun,the founder of Pencils of Promise, gave an inspiring talk based on his experiences.

This year, I thought I'd offer five simple tips that graduates today can quickly and easily implement in their every day lives.  And if they start right away, these behaviors can become habits that last a lifetime.

  • Identify Yourself  I told you these tips would be simple.  Every time you meet with someone extend your hand and introduce yourself, if you think there is any chance that the other person does not recognize or recall you.  If they do know you, they will politely say, 'of course, good to see you" and if they do not recognize you they will be relieved that you jogged their memory.  It is a "can't miss" piece of advice with no real downside.
  • Identify Yourself (Part Two)  As our world becomes increasingly digital and pre-programmed, an act as simple identifying yourself at the outset of a phone call will greatly enhance your professionalism.  Simply state, "Hi, this is Tom Smith calling about issue X" when you initiate any call.  Today's graduates who are used to their friends and family knowing who is calling (due to caller id) are not in the habit of identifying themselves and just launch into conversation.  As an example, today I had forty students call me in my office asking for the grade on the final exam.  Only three identified themselves when I answered the phone.  Most said, " Hi, I'm calling to get my grade", and needed my verbal prompt to identify themselves. 
  • Write a Thank You Note  Another seemingly obvious piece of advice, but consistently overlooked.  Again digital - email and texting - habits have been so ingrained in young people that they view a hand written thank you note as tedious and anachronistic.  Not true!  Instead, think of the snail mail thank you note as a way to differentiate yourself and not compete with all the others sending electronic correspondence to the same person.
  • Be Early  If you have an interview for a position arrive early.  Sit in your car (or outside) and imagine the questions you will be asked and review your responses one last time.  Once you have landed a job - regardless of your role in a company - show up early.  People notice. It is the easiest way to display consistency and lets you impress others before you have even started work each day.
  • Ask Questions  The best way to learn is to ask questions.  It is also a great way to stand out at work.  Just as in a classroom situation, if one person has the question odds are so do other people.  Assertively asking for additional information or clarification communicates that you are interested and want to excel in your job.

None of these pieces of advice is a new, breakthrough idea in managing your life or career.  But you may be surprised at the results you get by utilizing these "old school" tactics in your every day life.

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