The Best Career Advice from This Year’s Commencement Speeches

commencement_speechAuthor: Jenna McGregor
Source: Washington Post

This year’s headline-grabbing commencement speeches have been high on thinly veiled critiques of the Trump administration and big on dire warnings about the state of American democracy.

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson cautioned graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don’t “confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders.” Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” And 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, raising a Russian ushanka hat as part of a Yale University tradition, said Sunday that “we’re living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy,” telling students “to stay vigilant, to neither close our eyes, nor numb our hearts or throw up our hands.”

But not all of this year’s graduation speeches are quite so political or cautionary. A few — though not many — seemed to remember that they were speaking before a group of people who were about to embark upon life as adults who will have to navigate the politics of the workplace, the complexities of new relationships and the decisions of adult life. (Oprah Winfrey to USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism graduates: “Invest in a quality mattress. Your back will thank you later.”)

Here, some of the best advice offered by this year’s commencement speakers so far that graduates — or anyone — can apply to their work and careers:

Oprah Winfrey, chair and CEO of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California

Winfrey, whose past speeches have drawn speculation that she might be planning a run for president — a rumor she has squashed — got plenty of attention for her calls for graduates to vote in her speech at USC on May 11. But after offering a litany of practical wisdom (“Eat a good breakfast,” she said. “Pay your bills on time. Recycle.”) she also added some clear advice for graduates’ time in the workplace.

“The number one lesson I can offer you where your work is concerned,” said the media titan, “is this: Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do, that your talent cannot be dismissed.”

She also countered the typical “do what you love” advice that fill so many graduation speeches with something else. “You need to know this: Your job is not always going to fulfill you,” she said. “There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway, and remember that your job is not who you are. It’s just what you are doing on the way to who you will become. With every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons, because the lessons are always there.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani

The founder of the popular Greek-yogurt business, which has been caught in partisan sparring over Ulukaya’s history of hiring refugees, spoke at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School about the growing societal expectation that CEOs speak up on social issues.

“We are entering a new era, when the center of gravity for social change has moved to the private sector,” he said on May 13. “It’s business, not government, that is in the best position to lead today. It’s not government hiring refugees, it’s business. It’s not government cutting emissions, it’s business. It’s not government standing up to gun violence, it’s business.”

But he also had some advice for the business school grads.

“It’s great that you are a Wharton MBA. But please, don’t act like it,” he said.

That advice came from his employees, he said, after he asked them what he should say in his speech. What they meant was not to treat people like the stereotype of the heartless, number-crunching business school grad.

“Don’t let it get in the way of seeing people as people and all they have to offer you, regardless of their title or position,” he said. “Acknowledging the wisdom and experience of a forklift operator or security guard with 30 years on the job doesn’t diminish your own experience. Acknowledging the sacrifice of others that enabled you to be in this position does not diminish the sacrifices you made on your own.”



What Grads Can Do To Find The Right Job After College

COLLEGE-GRADUATEAuthor: Christie Garton
Source: Huffington Post

Congrats grads! Graduation is an exciting time for any young person, but there is an overwhelming sense of unease among today’s young people regarding life outside of their predictable school walls.

My non-profit teamed up with Toluna to get a better sense of what students are facing at graduation, as part of our ongoing State of the Girl series. Our survey revealed that, no surprise, finding that first job is still the biggest challenge facing these soon-to-be graduates. What is surprising, however, is that over 80 percent of female college graduates say they are finding it difficult to land a job within their chosen field of study.


This is an alarming statistic. It means only about 17 percent of graduates are finding jobs related to what they actually studied in school. Couple that with the fact that graduates are raking up over $37,000 in student loan debt (from a new study by, students who find themselves in a bad-fit job after graduation have a difficult getting on the right path.

But good news for graduates: you have the power to change this outcome. From my experience in working with students and graduates over the years, there are several strategies you can utilize during the job recruitment process to improve your chances of getting noticed (and hired!) for the job of your dreams after graduation.


Customize your pitch


First, be smart about where you apply. Instead of sending the same, generic letter to dozens of similar companies, graduates need to select five to ten companies that look like a good fit. Next, customize your cover letters and resumes based on the employer and the specific position you are seeking. Let’s get real. Hiring managers can see right through a “canned” application. Now here’s where an applicant really shines—do a little research and include in the cover letter a comment related to an exciting new project or update from the company. Check recent company press releases (available on their website) or Google the company to get some ideas. From experience, this can go a long way in helping an applicant stand out. If a graduate you know needs some help perfecting their cover letter, these writing tips from The Muse can help.


Stand out in the interview by expanding on ideas


Success! You sent the potential new employer a standout cover letter and resume that secured an interview. During the interview, your #1 task is to get them to see you as a part of the team. How do you do that? Introduce and expand on some new, creative ideas for projects during the course of the conversation. But this can only happen if you have a firm grasp of some of the company’s recent news and updates (see the tip above!). The preparation and research shows the employer that you already are interested in adding great value to the company and that you are someone who is proactive in your work. Applicants who bring ideas to the table and put themselves in the position’s shoes are more likely to get hired for the job.



How to Avoid the 5 Common First Job Mistakes Recent Grads Make


Author: Kema Christian-Taylor
Source: Huffington Post

In the spring before my freshman year of college, I attended Harvard’s Prefrosh Weekend for recently admitted students. My cousin, a second-semester freshman at the time, ripped the welcome folder from my hands the moment she saw me: “You don’t need this. Never bring this out again.” As I started walking around with her and her friends, looking at the clusters of newly admitted students, painfully distinguishable by the bright, crimson folders they clutched to their chests, the message became clear: I may have been a rookie, but I didn’t have to act like one.

The same idea translates in the professional world. While no one expects you to be a prodigy in your first job out of college, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of what not to do when you start a new job. You can easily see success on your first job by setting yourself apart from the squad of newbies and avoiding the 5 common first job mistakes below.

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The 6 Skills Graduates Really Need To Get Employed

shutterstock_238547359-e1452697775726Author: Ruby Lowe
Source: Undercover Recruiter

With the estimated number of job seeking graduates increasing, it’s important that graduates show off the skills that employers really want to see. It’s not just about the skills you were taught at university – it’s the knowledge you’ve built up along the way, and the type of person that this experience has molded you into. So what things are employers really looking for?

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