Jim Mullen: The commencement address no one wants to hear
Congratulations, graduates! One day, you’ll look back on the past six years and say, “Those college days were the happiest of my life.”
Honestly, I’m guessing you’ll say that just a couple of days after you leave here and move back into your parents’ house. And every day afterward.
Many of you will now be entering the job market for the first time, and there are a few things you need to know. First, all the students who graduated from this school last year, and the year before, and the year before, have already taken all the good jobs. And older people like me still have jobs. And guess what? We’re not going to retire just because you graduated from college. So, good luck there.
Second, if you do get lucky and find a job that doesn’t require wearing a nametag or a dosimeter, you will be shocked to learn that most businesses will want you to be there from 9 to 5, not noon to 3. Don’t look at your parents and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. There’s a reason colleges hold these commencement ceremonies at 1 in the afternoon. They know if they held them at 9 a.m., most of you would still be in the sack. And, unlike “the college experience,” employers won’t give you a month off for Easter, another month off for Christmas, and four months off for the summer. Your first year of working, you’ll get a week off and a couple of sick days — and that’s if you work for a good company.
Kind of makes you start thinking about grad school, doesn’t it?
You’re not going to believe this, but most employers care way less about sports than colleges do. Most of your big employers — the Microsofts and the Googles and the Amazons of this world — don’t really care if you played football or basketball. They don’t have cheerleaders. It’s almost as if they care more about how smart you are, how much you know, and how fast you can learn new things than about your college team. Go figure.
For most of you, today is the beginning (that’s what “commencement” means, by the way) of your new life. It could be the beginning of a lot of things: the beginning of your new dead-end job at a soul-crushing cube farm; the beginning of years of sleepless nights of diaper-changing; the beginning of endless, yearslong fights with your spouse; the beginning of the first of many acrimonious divorces; the beginning of child-support payments and shared custody; the beginning of your drug and alcohol problems; the beginning of trying to figure out how to pay off your crushing student loan debts while still having money left over for food — or, it can be the beginning of a long, wonderful, rewarding journey with all kinds of soul-nourishing events along the way.
The main thing you should have learned is that learning never stops. You’ll learn that working grownups don’t have keggers every weekend. You’ll learn there’s a reason you’ll never see a video called “Middle-aged Working Women Gone Wild.” They’re tired. They’re worn out. They are overworked and underpaid. You’ll learn that the worst professor you ever had was a pussycat compared to the worst boss you will ever have.
When you leave here today and get back home, you’ll run into guys and gals from your high school class who didn’t go to college. Now they’re plumbers and electricians and car mechanics and contractors, and they’re making a fortune. While you were spending $40,000 a year to go to school, they were making $120,000 a year. They’ve already got houses and cars, and they’re taking their families on vacations. They’re flipping houses. Maybe you should ask one of them for a job. You might learn something. They’d probably be happy to hear about any houses for sale by disbanded fraternities that you know about. Ask for a finder’s fee.
And right about now, you’re learning that you should have heard this talk before you started college, instead of at graduation.
Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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