Last week I attended my first US graduation ceremony.
Although it was quite different to my own in Australia there are certain universalities when it comes to these events- the proud families, the sense of anticipation, the black gowns and of course, the speeches.
What struck me most about the ceremony wasn’t the commencement speech, but a speech given by a student on behalf of her class. I am guessing she was top of her year, excelled in all of her subjects and had participated in a long list of extra curricular activities.
She was enthusiastic, outgoing and had absolutely no idea.
Much of her speech focused on how the graduating class had done the hard yards in life and should now go out into the ‘real world’ to claim the jobs that were ‘rightfully theirs.’
I don’t judge her for encouraging her classmates to seek employment in a fledgling job market, but as I looked around many of the adults in the audience were cringing and the woman beside mouthed ‘oh my god’ to her husband. They were highly aware that very few of these graduates knew the slightest thing about the ‘real world’ or that the hard yards in life had not even begun.
In 2012 I was one of those graduates and for a long time I believed that I would be given my dream job because I had worked hard at university, graduated and was therefore entitled to it.
After receiving job rejection after job rejection I realized just how wrong this line of thinking is.
As soon as you believe you are entitled to anything more in life than a decent standard of living (which millions of people are denied) you slip into a frame of mind where you stop trying, stop striving for your goal and stop working hard not only to improve your skill set, but to improve yourself.
I don’t believe I am an arrogant person nor do I think that I deserve anything more than any one else. And I doubt the girl giving the graduation speech thought this way either. But often this line of thinking is easier to swallow than the prospect of being unemployed or if you’re lucky, working a job at Starbucks post university.
I am not any wiser than the graduating class of 2013 but through rejection, disappointment and frustration I have learnt that while you are not entitled to a great job simply because you have a degree, you are entitled to a life and the freedom to choose how you are going to live it.
So you could go day in, day out believing that you deserve so much more than life has dealt you or – you could continue working hard knowing that while you have achieved a great mile stone in life there are many more to come; and none of them will be nearly as easy.
** Many people would label this a ‘gen y’ phenomenon and perhaps rightly so. But for the purposes of this blog I decided to ignore that debate as I don’t believe it adds any real life value to the discussion.**