The first commencement on record was probably in the 17th Century, which means by now we’ve given and/or received the best life advice from the smartest and dumbest people alike. This is why you might say, “Why bother with such a blog post when someone, somewhere, sometime has already said it best?”
There’s much truth to that; however, each and every one of us will have a different experience. This is why we at the Water & Wall Group offer our absolute, unequivocal, non-billable, total best and purest (not to mention strategic) professional guidance for this year’s graduating class. Expect a PR slant throughout.
1. If you want to pursue your dream, recognize that there is no such thing as a “comfort zone.” You’ve heard variations of this over the years. Among them is, “anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy.” This is mostly true.
2. Someone can tell you to make mistakes early, and they’re right, but don’t expect to feel good about your mistakes, even though they’re essential to success. Without mistakes, there is no learning and if you make them later in your career, and you will, there’s much more at stake.
3. Style and class is knowing what to wear and when to wear it. Whether you’re in a business casual or jeans-if-you-want-to work environment, always think less Met Gala, where the fashion theme was “mostly naked” for some this year, and more White House Correspondents Dinner. You’ll work with at least one person who ignores this counsel.
4. There is nothing more important in this world than who you know. There is, actually, but this advice deserves a home near the top of the list. Recognize that getting to know people is more than attending black-tie affairs and trade shows. Also, practice doing this face to face. We mean no offense, Twitterati. Got it? Now read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
5. Write well enough to communicate constructively one-to-one with your peers, and especially your boss. Emoji are the best and worst thing to happen to written communication in the last few years. People are forgetting how to convey sentiment on paper without using J or L. Keep “The Elements of Style” within reach. I also like “Who’s Whose.”
6. If you have puppies, put them on the front page. Or cats. The Internet has retaught us this age-old journalistic maxim and you should be prepared to apply this rule where appropriate to make whatever you create in this life interesting to someone else. Warning: We’re not responsible if you take this too literally and actually insert an image of a small animal on a formal business presentation and expect positive feedback.
7. Expect surprises. If you’re passionate about your career, it will be the reason you’re able to weather the storm. We hope you never have to endure a Great Recession, but if you do, we hope you’re among the lucky folks who does what he or she loves for a living. This will help you emerge unscathed. There are more caveats to list here than most would be willing to read, so just take our word for it.
8. There’s strength in knowing what you don’t know.
9. For goodness sake, for your own sake, show up, and not just in person. Yes, be punctual. But also bring enthusiasm. Bring positive energy. If it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., you and the people stuck in that conference room with you will be better for it. This is when caffeine becomes friend and foe. Get to know the difference.
10. Ask questions no matter how simple or trivial they may sound. A question unasked is a wasted opportunity to learn. Bring five good questions to every meeting. Even if you don’t get a chance to ask them. “Good” in this case is defined by doing homework first and then writing down the questions. It helps you develop an opinion, which you should have. Just don’t be opinionated.
11. Be a student of your clients, their industry, and the media that covers them. Be curious. You’ll learn more in less time this way. It can help you be the right business partner and counselor.
12. Status quo leads to mediocrity, which is certain death in any business. You get bored when things get stale, like “How I Met Your Mother” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” Read our recent blog post about keeping things fresh with a client. Then you can challenge clients where it makes sense for their business.
13. Embrace the team concept. This is a collaborative business in which lone wolves seldom succeed. Whether you join a start-up or an international behemoth, know that working with people is 100 percent of the job. You might not like them, but they might also be the people who teach you the most.
14. Be humble and take nothing for granted. This is almost impossible. Be prepared to remind yourself time and again to appreciate what you have.
15. Finally, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)