Teacher's Desk - Graduation Cap & Diploma

"Very soon you’ll encounter a recent graduate. He or she might be excited, nervous, anxious, gleeful or all of the above as they take that next step in their life."

Every May, my writings and speeches have been aimed at the year’s high school and college graduates. I’ve offered encouragement, ideas and suggestions. Many have offered thanks because I share a perspective as both chamber president and a scooter-riding, video game-playing, former bouncer. This year I’m shaking it up, or as Monty Python fans would say, “and now for something completely different.” This is for the grown-ups.

Very soon you’ll encounter a recent graduate. He or she might be excited, nervous, anxious, gleeful or all of the above as they take that next step in their life. This could be your chance to offer encouragement, ideas and suggestions. To you, my first suggestion: speak with them as you would someone at your level in life, as an equal. Many people will see a young face and react accordingly, forgetting the “young person” has been on this planet for at least 17 years. Keep in mind the immortal words of Rob Halford: “You don’t have to be old to be wise.”

It’s possible the grad is very school smart but missing some real-world skills. I had a 20-year-old college friend who didn’t know how to operate a washing machine or do laundry. Many in the under-30 group have never been taught how to create a home budget. Most of them wing it then wonder why they’re paycheck to paycheck every month. Should I mention the lack of basic cooking skills? Not sure if it’s the large number of grab-and-go meal options, a microwave meal lifestyle or something else that makes home-cooked meals an oddity. By the way, I can sew a button and, with enough time, hem clothing. I wonder how many people younger than 40 can do any sewing. My point: share the soft skills you have with the grad who might be missing them.

Explain what to expect in an interview for a college or a job. Basically, it’s all about self-promotion. Experts say any presentation is 10% preparation and 90% practice. What are the graduate’s best qualities? What do they want others to know about them to get the job or into a college? These items should flow smoothly, one right after the other. Watch for the grads who underestimate their abilities. Tell them what you see as their best strengths and attributes.

Lastly, there are graduates of all ages. The older grad is also entering a new stage in their life and could have similar exhilaration or fears as the younger grads. Please give them your support and encouragement.

I always quote the words on a small plaque given to me by my godmother when I graduated from high school. A simple bit of advice that is true even today: “The key to happiness is having dreams. The key to success is making your dreams come true.”