Ten Tips to Help Recent Graduates Succeed in the Personal “Pursuit of Happiness”
Some jobs offer clear career paths – teaching, medicine, law, military service – but most do not.
Most jobs support a diverse array of businesses and government operations that serve multitudes of purposes across society, from home maintenance to agricultural inspection to global finance. Finding jobs that satisfy one’s personal and career objectives can often take a bit of creative thinking.
With that in mind, and as a working writer, editor and producer who’s “been there and done that” for several decades, here are my tips for young graduates who are entering the fulltime workforce for the first time:
- Seek and take a job – any job or internship – in the area of business or public service that interests you most, and/or that allows you to use your preferred skillset (such as writing, design, programming, math, organizing, decorating, or interacting with others).
- If you want to run a hotel or restaurant, take a job at a hotel or restaurant.
- If you are fascinated by technology, take a job at a technology company.
- If you want to work in retail, take a job at a store.
- If you want to work in movies, take a job at any company tied to the film industry.
- If you are a writer/editor, take a job that involves writing and editing, even if you are writing and editing information about nails.
- Keep the faith in your education and gifts, and avoid job snobbery. Never be ashamed to sweep a floor or pick up trash or stuff and stamp envelopes. Veer away from the tendency to view your starter job as a roadblock to your dream job. Fancy jobs are scarce, and sometimes we just have to take a job that pays the bills.
There is no shame in any form of work, at all, and all jobs provide learning experiences that can be useful later on.
If you are smart enough to get a college degree, you are smart enough to rise through the ranks to a more responsible, better paying position, sometimes faster than you think (read on…)
- Remember the meaning of the word “opportunity,” and that the word can apply to many aspects of life, from promotions, to raises, to veering off into new professional directions.
My first job on a movie set occurred when I was interning with a television commercial production company. On the first shoot day, I was brought onboard as a PA (Production Assistant), a role that involved running errands, stocking drink coolers, keeping the food table organized, and, at the end of the day (back in those days), roaming around the staging area picking up cigarette butts.
Within three months, I was hired on staff, and my first assignment was to produce a commercial all on my own. How did I get to the top job so fast? I simply followed one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.
Film productions are very expensive and very complex. From prep to wrap, productions involve multiple, differentiated tasks and multiple levels of responsibility. Movie sets additionally adhere to strict protocols regarding who’s allowed to do what, and strict chains of communication and command, all to ensure that film shoots run smoothly, stay as close to budget as possible, and are wrapped on time.
Since I was the lowly PA charged with picking up cigarette butts, my supervisor, the company’s Production Manager, who may not have wanted me to feel disappointed in my internship, instructed me to watch what everybody else was doing and think about how I would do it better.
I took him at his word and over the course of my three month internship, I learned how to produce, from start to finish. Voila!
- When you are handed a position of responsibilty, do the creative aspect of the job the way you think it should be done. If rules and protocols are pre-established for the task, such as coding methodologies for a new piece of software, apply the rules rigorously, but avoid letting others dictate or micromanage your creative efforts and thought processes, even if that means working at home for no extra pay. If the creative process is collaborative, collect input, ideas and information from others ahead of time. If you need help or information, ask for it! Polish your work until it shines before presenting to others.
- Learn to tell the difference between a legitimately angry or forceful boss, and a bully.
Angry bosses are often frustrated by real workplace issues. An angry boss may yell a bit, but the outcome is usually a real solution to a real problem. The best way to work with an angry boss is to listen!
Bullies, on the other hand, mistreat people for the heck of it, nitpick and sneer, call out mistakes that aren’t mistakes, drop backhanded put-downs, lay false blame for false problems. Bullying wears down morale, and negatively impacts efficiency. I personally have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying bosses (and co-workers) and truly recommend that if a bullying problem is unsolvable on site, one should start a new job search.
On the flip side, avoid disparaging the boss. In most instances, your job is to:
- Make your boss’s job easier (e.g. by getting a news story in on deadline)
- Help the company succeed by doing your work correctly and well.
You may want to be the boss someday, but wasting company money by griping about the boss behind his or her back and/or delivering half-baked or sloppy results as form of “protest,” is a poor and unlikely path to success.
- Don’t avoid office politics like the plague. Avoid office politics because office politics is the plague. Those who backbite, backstab, rat out, gossip or tell tall tales about co-workers with whom they feel competitive may win out in the short-term of day-to-day office operations, but nastiness at work can eventually translate to poor company imaging, under-performance, and potential business failure.
People are not perfect, and there is no sameness of persons anywhere, even in jobs that involve uniforms.
Exclusive of adopting zero-tolerance of bullies, tolerance of each other’s eccentricities and individual work styles is as important to success in the workplace as it is to happiness in the home, and to peace in world affairs.
- Respect your profession and your fellow professionals! If you are a writer, for example, never, ever plagiarize (you will be caught) and remember, always, that the root word in the phrase “poetic license” is “poet.” While linguistic creativity and vernacular speech is critical to the creation of engaging poetry, fiction and drama, there is no place for poor grammar, misspelled words and missing verbs in news or business writing.
- Have fun, do your best to enjoy your work and make it interesting, no matter what your task, and show appreciation for the good work of others. You will feel better from day to day, and hopefully help others feel good about themselves, too.
- Always and forever remember who is the real boss. That person is YOU! You are working to support yourself, and your family, if you have a family.
You go to work each and everyday for the single and only reason to live your own life the way you want your life to be.
We are all equal men and women on this planet, and every single one of us is entitled to our personal “pursuit of happiness.”
So, all that said, good luck to all ye young graduates in what I hope are many, many, many very bright and happy futures.