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Friday, June 7, 2019

My Commencement Address

Where Was I . . .

My Commencement Address

By Janice Lane Palko 

We are in graduation season. And although no one has asked me to give a commencement address, that is not stopping me! Here are some things I learned after finishing school and beginning my career that might help all you recent graduates.  

Is That all There Is?  – Several weeks into working at my first job, I remember thinking: I worked hard all through school and landed a good job and this is all there is? Why was I in such a hurry to get here? I don’t care if you are pursuing your dream career and love your new position, entering the full-time workforce is a huge transition for a young person. You will have to deal with an alarm clock, traffic and minutiae that will test your patience. But take heart; you will adjust. I did, and eventually came to like and enjoy my job. Getting a paycheck helps with that (if you overlook the amount of taxes deducted from your pay). 

Talk About Diversity –  The buzzword at colleges these days is diversity, but when you enter the workforce, diversity slaps you upside the head. I’m not talking about adjusting to working with people who look different from you or come from different backgrounds, I’m talking about learning how to get along with the boss who removes his shoes and clips his toenails in the office (I witnessed this) , or the slacker who never puts paper in the printer when it runs out, or the petty thief who steals your lunch from the office refrigerator even though your lunch bag is clearly marked with your name. In truth, not one of us is the same, and you will have to learn to deal with some people who are annoying, inconsiderate, or downright nasty. But the flipside of diversity is tolerance. Working in the real world will help you to develop your tolerance muscles and make you grow. 

Just Because I’m an Adult Doesn’t Mean I Act Like One –  When I went to work, I assumed childishness was left at the schoolhouse door. Wrong. I’ve seen grown men throw tantrums because they didn’t get the office with the window. Or grown women shun other women “Mean Girls” style. You will encounter backstabbers, cheats, and liars, but you will also meet kind people, friends, and maybe even a spouse. I became friends with people who were older than my grandparents and found mentors who looked out for me and promoted me. Like you did in school, avoid the jerks and be the kind of person you’d like others to be.  

Finally, Nothing is Etched in Stone –  I began my adult life employed as a corporate secretary. I never dreamed that someday I’d be working as a writer. Most people’s lives, including their careers, are not linear. You will venture off your intended path, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. But whatever happens, there is one thing to keep in mind that will not fail: Always be the best you can be wherever you may find yourself. It will be rewarded in the long run, if not by others, but in the satisfaction that you will feel from representing yourself well. 

This originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Northern Connection magazine.