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Mike Wong

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication › Public + Community Relations
International Association of Business Communicators, Canadian Public Relations Society

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Graduation ceremony
Graduating is daunting, as you are now thrust into a new world with different opportunities for you to conquer and explore.

The world is your oyster, class of 2012. How many times have you heard that already? In two days, you will have walked across that stage with your parchment in hand: a result of your four to five (or more) years of hard work. While we will leave all the emotional, heartfelt speeches to the esteemed speakers on stage, we decided to write a congratulatory and advice piece for those that will be receiving their diverse degrees, as well for students who will be graduating in the near future.

Conan O’Brien, a popular late night talk show host, delivered a commencement speech to the 2011 graduating class at Dartmouth College. Through his perspective from working in comedy for over 17 years, he had some very inspiring thoughts on achieving your dreams:

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique”.

1. The Destination, not the Journey

While he was not saying that we are all destined to fail, he was getting at the fact that it is often the journey, not the destination that counts and defines us. While all of you are graduating with prestigious degree designations, some of you may have hopes and specific aspirations with regards to your career. On the other hand, a lot of you may still not know what you want to do after graduating. The important message however, is that you can ask for all the advice you want, but in the end, it is ultimately up to you. So, seek advice, listen, and then follow your own instincts on what feels right.

2. Remember What You Have Done

Your university experience may have been a whirlwind but you have definitely learned a lot about yourself, what you like and dislike, and what competencies and skills you’ve developed. The knowledge and experience you gained from planning fundraisers for school clubs, or the friendships you have made playing intramural sports are invaluable, as these life skills will carry over to whatever you decide to do. Also, avoid discounting any experiences you may think are not relevant. For example, spending your summer volunteering and working with kids. This is relevant work experience and you may want to ask yourself a few questions. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? Did you work independently as well as in a team?  What skills did you utilize in performing your responsibilities? If you can identify and voice these transferrable skills to your employer, this will be excellent experience!

3. Do What You Love

This is an important one! Passion and determination is a big driver of change and quickly offers diverse and unplanned opportunities. Why do something you don’t enjoy doing? For example, have you always dreamt about becoming a singer and you have a Communications degree?  One idea would be to market yourself with all the great writing competencies you gained achieving your degree.

Graduating is daunting, as you are now thrust into a new world with different opportunities for you to conquer and explore. However different it may be from your school life, don’t forget that this is a new chapter in your life and strive to embrace new challenges, take risks and make excellent mistakes. Be proactive, volunteer, explore your capabilities, and never forget who you are. As Conan O’Brien says,

“it's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

Good luck, and congratulations to the SFU graduands of 2012!

Interested in checking out the entire Conan O’Brien’s address?

About the Author

Mike's portrait

Mike Wong

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication › Public + Community Relations
International Association of Business Communicators, Canadian Public Relations Society
Mike Wong is an aspiring Public Relations Professional, interested in Crisis Communications and Content Strategy. Connect with Mike on Twitter.
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