Every year, top leaders in business, philanthropy, the arts, politics, and more take to podiums across the nation to address the latest cohort of college graduates. To celebrate those taking that major step in their career journeys – congratulations to you all! – and help everyone working their day-to-day work, on the job hunt, or both, we collected of some of the most inspired and instructional advice from 2018’s commencement speakers. (For more from each speaker, be sure to follow the links!)
“When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you... Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose."
“What will define you is your courage, because that is the virtue on which all others depend… We need young people with the courage to say, ‘This is our world now, and there are going to be some changes.’”
“Graduates, be fearless. Be the last people to accept things as they are, and the first people to stand up and change them for the better.”
“As a change agent, it may be uncomfortable… it might at first feel like there's something wrong with you. But guess what? There's not. There is something very right about you if you are sensitive to unjust systems. Let that discomfort be your guide. It will tell you when to act.”
“Hold yourself and our leaders to the highest standards of ethics and morality... Follow the data, wherever it leads. Listen to people you disagree with – without trying to censor them or shout over them. And have the courage to say things that your own side does not want to hear.”
“Don’t fall victim to what I call the ‘ready-aim-aim-aim-aim’ syndrome. You must be willing to fire… After all, a plan without action is not a plan – it’s a speech.”
“You have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real. You need to be your own cheerleader now, because there isn’t a room full of people waiting with pom‑poms to tell you, ‘You did it! We’ve been waiting all this time for you to succeed!’ So I’m giving you permission to root for yourself. And while you’re at it, root for those around you, too.”
“Succeed professionally and share your success. And give back to the planet and people who need your support. Build your own network of humans to love, respect, and share with. Their strength is your strength, their success and happiness will be yours as well.”
“Acknowledging the sacrifice of others that enabled you to be in this position does not diminish the sacrifices you made on your own. Be the kind of person, be the kind of leader that other people want to sacrifice for. Be good to waiters. Ask others for advice, no matter their jobs. And listen – really listen – to their answers.”
“I vowed that as long as I’d be responsible for managing other people, I would aspire to manage compassionately. That meant pausing, and being a spectator to my own thoughts, especially when getting emotional. It meant walking a mile in the other person’s shoes [and] doing everything within my power to set them up to be successful... Managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it’s a better way to build a company.”
“In the age of Twitter and Instagram followers, we all have the responsibility to follow thoughtfully and resist conscientiously. All of us, regardless of how we become involved, must have a commitment to ensure that the benefits of technology and data apply equally, including to those who are most vulnerable.”
“Your decisions about how to spend your time will define the trajectory and shape of your career. It’s the governor of your success and largely determines the fullness of your life… Make your efforts deserving of your time.”
“At some point in my journey I switched from life feeling all about ’me’ to being all about ‘us.’ ...As I weighed my opportunity to work in Uganda, I have a distinct memory of a senior colleague [saying] I would ruin my academic career by leaving the country. It was great advice because he was right. But here’s the point: It was ‘me’ advice. So, to this day, I like to think of it as the best advice I never took.”
“Give your word. Keep it. Show up. Do the work. Get your hands dirty. You build a legacy not from one thing, but from everything.”
Marc Schultz is communications editor at Work for Good.