My address to the graduating class of 2014

Posted by Marlinee on Jun 1, 2014 in Work |

The main point of finally finishing school is to enter the workforce, but of course deciding what to do, unless you have taken a course of study that ends in a ready-made profession, is not that easy. Even those of you who did graduate as a proto-engineer, nurse, teacher etc. may have already figured out you would rather do something else if you only knew what it was.

There has recently been a backlash against the ‘do what you love’ mantra espoused by everyone from Steve Jobs on down. And I think this is well warranted. Finding work is more often like an arranged marriage than love at first sight: if you match up some essential skills and aptitudes with the requirements of a job in a particular industry or function eventually your level of confidence and comfort in a position will rise to the point where you feel competent, valued and challenged.

Another aspect of a happy work life is the right corporate culture. In fact, one of the most important questions to ask in an interview is about the corporate culture and the key things the company thinks defines their culture. Then put your propaganda detector on high alert. Another good question is ‘what do you do for fun?’ One company I interviewed with said the most fun thing they did was have birthday cakes. Now if you think that’s the pinnacle of levity I’d be happy to pass along their name, but my interpretation of that answer was that the notion that work and fun could have some sort of intersection was not part of their corporate lexicon.

Something else to watch out for in the quest for minimal drudgery is companies that tout they look out for their employees’ ‘work life balance’. These are the ones that have kitchens stocked with microwavable food and cappuccino machines, and access to a concierge service to pick up and drop off your dry cleaning or schedule your dentist appointment. Note that all of these ‘perks’ centre around doing anything in their power to not have you leave your desk.

In the end though, we can’t all sit in a corner office and invent new handheld devices. Someone has to take out the garbage, make the sandwiches, look after other people’s children and stock the shelves. And anyone can do any of these things with a smile on their face if they like working with their colleagues. I have had terrible jobs that were bearable because we were all united in hatred of our boss. I have had wonderful jobs that were that much more fabulous because of the people I worked with.

You may think the people you met at school will be your friends for life. Some of them will, but on balance you will all go your separate ways. Your true source of lifelong friendship will be the people you sit side-by-side with as you dig into your working life. And what’s not to love about that.

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