For the Class of 2012

Yes, it’s been done before. You may have read recent pieces directed to this year’s grads in the Wall Street Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Here is mine.

(I actually shared many of the following thoughts with an attentive group of students last week in a PR class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Thanks for inviting me!)

As you make your way into the world, do these things.

  1. Write. The best way to improve your writing is… to write! Write a lot. You will need good writing skills whatever your career path. And, as you work on writing, work also on editing. Writing clearly and concisely is vital.
  2. Network. Take the opportunity to meet people in your chosen field. Don’t just visit with people your own age. Don’t just talk to the attractive people.
  3. Be flexible. You may not land the job of your dreams anytime soon, if ever. But you may find that what’s available is far better than you could’ve imagined.
  4. Grow your tech skills. You are a digital native, so dealing with the digital world is instinctive for you. Learn how to shoot good video and how to edit and post what you shoot. Learn the basics of web development. New platforms and techniques will emerge, but if you have a good foundation, you will be better able to quickly adapt.
  5. Archive your work. If it’s all on a laptop, back it up. The laptop could disappear or be dropped or simply fail. Blog posts will likely stay around, but other web content you’ve authored can vanish at any time. Print out your best work or save it to an external drive.
  6. Don’t be timid. This may be my most important piece of advice. It can be hard to ask someone to hire you, to ask someone to go out on a date with you or to ask your parents for money. Just do it. Even if they say “no” the first time, they may say “yes” later.
  7. If a relative or two gives you a copy of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go, just smile and say thank you. “Places” is a classic gift for grads, although I’d recommend instead the more useful You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.
  8. Start putting some money into a retirement plan as soon as you start earning a paycheck. Age 60 is a long way away, but the earlier you start putting aside some cash, the more you’ll have when you get there. Even if you’re paying off a huge student loan tab, sock some away.
  9. Call your mom and dad every now and then. They may or may not want to micromanage your life, but you still need to keep them in the loop.
  10. Enjoy your life and don’t complain too much, okay?



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