Dear Graduate... / by Kia Jarmon

It’s the end of the school year. This is the end of the education road for some as they say goodbye to high school and college. As we celebrate them and send them good wishes I’d like to share something. For the love of whatever you hold holy stop with the bull advice about finding the job of your dreams immediately and saving the world. Some, like the smallest percentage, will do that and others need to get a dose of reality.

Dear Graduates,
- You may not make $80k immediately.

- You may have to take work home, especially since you tweeted and texted all day. 

- everything is not about you. there will be times when people will stop talking when you enter the room. there will be times when people have inside jokes that aren't meant to hurt you but cement their relationship. there will be times when you won't be included on the email exchange. Don't take it personally. Instead, interject if you're bold enough to and the moment presents itself. Or, make your own moments.

- Your employer may be uninterested in your inability to use the copy machine. Doesn’t mean they don’t like you, just means maybe google can help more. 

- Your earn the right to manage strategy. A degree does not entitle you to that. 

- Answering the phones isn’t beneath you. You need to learn skills like note taking, listening, customer experience, and conflict management. 

- Notes isn’t just an app on your phone it’s a necessary function for process development. It’s proven: write it, remember it. Where’s your freaking pen and paper? 

- When you come into the meeting with clients or major customers, take notes and debrief with the team later. Otherwise, your edges might be snatched from the laser beams coming from your managers eyes when you dare speak. 

- You may have to live with parents, find a roommate or drive for Uber/Lyft. That doesn’t make you unsuccessful, it makes you smart to stack and save. 

- Your version of fabulous may be paying your bills on time. Don’t let reality tv, movies, or your friends shame you into feeling bad about it. 

- Suck it up buttercup. You got fussed at, at work. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Doesn’t mean you suck overall. Just means you didn’t meet an expectation. Get over it and keep it moving, with a good attitude. You didn’t die. 

- Speaking of...doing your job is not does not earn you the designation of having an aggressive work ethic, it just means you know how to work. You won’t (and shouldn’t) be rewarded for doing the basics of your job. No participation ribbons bih. 

- Keep learning. You know how to open Facebook and post a personal status? That does not make you worthy of being a social media influencer or specialist. Learn something no one else in your organization knows. 

- speaking of learning, commit to 30 minutes to an hour each day learning. Oh, and yes you can do some of that at work but homework happens at home. You want a career, invest in yourself like you do. You wanna a job, work in fast food or a call center. Nothing wrong with either, the expectations are different. 

- Unless you sign the checks, be careful how careless you are with company time and resources. Treat your task list and materials like they are important to you. Maybe better than you treat your own stuff/time. 

- Watch your words. Leave your gossiping, your negative attitude, and your over commentating self at home. Your energy can be contagious. Learn something. Earn your place. Then, speak. 

- speaking of your words. You tell your supervisor that you don’t have time to complete the work assigned three weeks and 5 meetings ago? Then your employer might not have time to pay you. Unless you work for a place where you can clock in, clock out, forget about the workplace, you aren’t a shift worker. Put in some real work and kill the complaining. Shape up or be shipped out. 

- lastly, I understand school maybe didn’t actually prepare you for more than following directions, studying theory, and memorizing facts. But guess what? Who cares. That’s your problem to work through. You likely will get paid to think through the process. No one is going to remind you to put your name on your paper. If you don’t know how to think between the directions or don’t know how to develop practical application from theory, delete me as a FB friend now. So you’re not tempted to apply. (sorry, not sorry)

Signed,
The Mentor You Never Knew You Needed

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Colleagues wanted to join in and share their Dear Graduate lessons. They are below. 

From Ashley Northington of DENOR Brands and PR

Christ. This is a good list.

Let me add:

- It’s important to remember your supervisor/boss/manager is a person, too. Practice humility. Just like you go through ish and have bad days, they do, too. We all have to learn to love on each other as people.

- You don’t get the chance to come into a situation and immediately tell people how you’re going to change it. Listen. Fall back. Observe. Learn the culture and work and the expectations before presenting all of your bright ideas.

- There will be times where things seem chaotic or times where things don’t go as planned. That’s OK. It’s just a part of the process. Your job is to adapt to change and to remember that chaos is the breeding ground for opportunity, but only for the prepared and adaptable. So, get prepared. Adapt.

- If you get thrown in the fire, it’s not meant to kill you. It’s designed to see how badly you come back burned. Your job is to learn how to survive. They taught you to stop, drop, and roll in elementary school. There’s a version for the work world. Your job is to figure it out.

- There’s a saying: ‘Everybody is grown until it’s time to communicate.’ Be grown. Use your words as a tool to manage up. Keep your supervisors in the loop - even if you feel like they already know the info. Send them updates anyway. They’ll appreciate your efforts.

- Your primary job is to make your boss’s life easier. Period. If you can’t do that, you may cease to exist in that environment. If you make your supervisor’s life harder, you might be replaced with someone who actually makes it easier.

- Your peers, and especially your boss, do not have all the answers - even if you think they do and even if they act like they do. They don’t. None of us have all the answers. It’s acceptable to find/discover/learn your own answers and apply them. Be loud and wrong and confident. And then learn from your mistakes.

- Speaking of mistakes...You will make them. That’s OK. When you’re an entry level employee, your employer is basically paying you to learn. It’s your job, then, to actually learn. That means not repeating the same mistakes over and over.

- You want a raise? Me too. You do not get a pay increase for finally meeting the expectations of the job. When you stop making mistakes, learn the ropes, and can manage the work effectively, then that will be great. But don’t expect a cookie for it. This means your employer is finally getting a return on their initial investment of paying you to learn and make mistakes (see above). You only earn a pay increase when you can effectively meet and then EXCEED expectations.

- Some jobs have tasks that are subjective. This means that a produced result may be magnificent to one person but mediocre to someone else. Don’t be confused about that. It’s your job to determine what the lines of mediocrity and excellence are at your current workplace and go beyond amazing.

- It’s not your supervisor’s job to manage your life outside work. It’s your responsibility to successfully integrate the two.

- Homework happens at HOME. It’s not your employer’s job to fix your every deficiency. You’ve got to take initiative to do your own studying to improve your skills.

- Most people don’t get exited (read: FIRED) from a job because they don’t know how to do the hard skills. People get exited from jobs because of the soft skills. Not knowing the soft skills looks like not knowing how to show up on time, or respond to emails and texts in a timely manner, or understanding appropriate dress, or understanding proper communication channels, or ineffectively managing stress, or forgetting to follow up, or not being organized, etc. Mastering the soft skills will take you FAR.

- Most real career-oriented jobs aren’t glamorous. Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime because you thought you were going to be able to “do it for the ‘gram.”

- Most professional gigs (especially in comms) require work well beyond the normal 8-5 work day/M-F work week. If you want a set schedule, as Kia said, seek out retail or a call center. There is honor in every job role.

- You have to crawl before you walk. While it’s great you have excitement around a particular thing and can do it reasonably well, you have to master the other stuff before you get the right to ‘only’ do what you want.

- You will sit at a desk. For a long time. You will do real work. Your life will not be posting pictures cheek-to-cheek with celebrities. Your life will not be traipsing across the world being fabulous. You will not be leading client meetings. You have to work hard to earn the right to do these things.

- Sometimes, you’ll have to settle for being seen and NOT heard. That’s ok. Deal with it. Eventually, you’ll get your chance to speak.