Emerging into an insecure world where the national unemployment rate is still hovering over 8 percent and two presidential candidates are anxious for their votes this November, today’s college graduates have no short supply of advice from their elders.
What advice can help them land a job (and begin to pay off those crushing college loans)? What words of wisdom can help them navigate the world of work, where they’ll be judged by a whole new set of criteria? The Fiscal Times scoured this year’s commencement addresses to find some of the most memorable economic advice:
Network and Build Relationships
Don’t look for jobs. Look for people. Despite all the online job boards and monster-dot-coms of the world, most jobs are still found the old-fashioned way: by meeting people and building relationships. Follow up with a phone call. Ask if you can come in, even for an informational interview. Do your homework find out the name of an actual, live person who makes hiring decisions and email him or her. Do you risk looking like a stalker? Perhaps. But when you’re competing against hundreds, even thousands, doing nothing will get you, well, nothing.
– Katie Couric, Journalist, University of Virginia
Be Independent and Innovate
Take an idea and then turn it on its head. After all, if Ben Franklin had accepted the way things were, we might still be turning on the lights with a match. It may be lonely at times, it may make you unpopular at times, and it may be dangerous to your career. But independence lies at the heart of innovation, progress and pride. So the next time someone tells you why something can’t be done, or why something is the best idea or the worst idea, remember Ben Franklin and his spirit of independence.
– Michael Bloomberg, NYC Mayor, Franklin & Marshall
Go Beyond 140 Characters
If we ignore all the serious issues or try to reduce them all to 140 characters or fewer exchanges, we are going to have genuine problems, not just in the economy, but in foreign policy, education, health.
– Ted Koppel, Journalist, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Surround Yourself with the Right People
At those times when you’re absolutely sure that you’re right, talk with someone who disagrees. And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say amen to everything you say, find other company.
– Condoleeza Rice, Former Secretary of State, Southern Methodist University
Be Damned Good
To get where you’re going, you have to be good, and to be good where you’re going, you have to be damned good. Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control.
– Aaron Sorkin, Writer and Producer, Syracuse University
Make 'Real Stuff'
We need to be using our knowledge to get out and do real stuff. I’m a child of the 50s. Republicans built the highway system. The Democrats went to the moon. We did stuff! We’ve got to get back to doing real stuff! One thing you definitely should not be doing is being the inventor of the next credit default swap.
– Temple Grandin, Animal Scientist, Franklin Pierce University
Be Ready to Teach
In the past, it’s always older generations standing up on high, trying to teach the next generation the ways of the world, trying to make sure they follow in their footsteps. Well, graduates, I think it’s different today. You’re quite simply teaching us.
– Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman, University of California, Berkeley
Get Along, Please!
How many of you have worked in politics during your time [in college]? All right. Keep that up. My only advice would be to get along, please. Remember, there would be no Constitution in this country without compromise.
– Brian Williams, NBC News Anchor, George Washington University