Dear Class of 2023:
Had my priorities been in order when I graduated, my career compass would have been:
Love what you do.
Love the people you do it with.
Love what you leave behind.
We live in a complicated world, especially when it comes to work. There are usually established, but not hard and fast rules, prerequisites to meet, such as obtaining an education, to begin moving towards your career aspirations. However, even when the prerequisite is met, success is not guaranteed.
Do not expect your degree to be enough.
After graduating from college, I stumbled through my twenties, unsure of myself and my place in the world. At the time, I did not fully grasp who I was or how my Social Science diploma would contribute to my career. Ultimately, I had to figure out the world and the workplace on my own.
Undeniably, the past three years have been tough. The pandemic redesigned student experiences, and social media became more "social" than it was pre-pandemic. You are not the first graduating class to face a world full of turmoil and uncertainty. Imagine graduating in 1942 and months later finding yourself fighting somewhere in Europe or graduating in 2008 amid what is known as The Great Recession.
You have challenges; a tight labour market, widespread layoffs, rapid technological advancement, particularly in artificial intelligence, technology that has the appearance of not being designed to enhance productivity but has an end goal of employee replacement, and hyperinflation making employers rethink how they do business.
Like every graduating class before you, you, and only you, are responsible for your career trajectory, so take full responsibility for it.
• Talk to everybody.
Opportunities are all around you; there is just one caveat: they are attached to people.
The adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know," is more relevant today than it ever was. Networking is the key to attaining a successful career. American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohan summed up the importance of cultivating and maintaining a professional network, "Your network is your net worth.”
Recently I came across a troubling headline, Americans More Than Ever Have No Friends. The article's author, Elizabeth Gilbert, states that Americans are experiencing a "friendship recession."
Today, many people participate in digital communities but have few real-life relationships. Instead of talking to people, texting has become the norm. Many employees advocate working from home so they can work in isolation. As an escape, binge-watching has become a trend.
Human contact is decreasing as more people use technology to communicate or avoid dealing with their surroundings. As a species, we are rapidly becoming unsociable. Do not be part of this decline!
Do not think you are above anybody. Give someone your undivided attention, and you will be amazed at what you learn. As much as possible, talk to people who have been there and done that. The best conversations I have ever had have been with people who had already travelled the path I was on or were where I wanted to be.
Back to the job search and career thing, I can tell you from experience that opportunities pop up from the most random conversations.
When meeting new people, remember that showing interest is a massive gesture. Place your attention on the other person by asking open-ended questions.
TIP: When meeting someone for the first time, ask yourself, "How can I help this person?"
• Do not feel entitled to anything.
Getting rid of any sense of entitlement is imperative; otherwise, you will be holding yourself back trying to fight the fundamental universal truth that the world does not owe you anything, not even to make a living.
Having a sense of entitlement is a turnoff. Not expecting anything from anyone is how you become an independent adult and earn respect. When you stop feeling entitled, your self-esteem will soar, and you will start upping your game.
• Become a person who adds value.
Make "Always add value" your personal mantra.
Employees who contribute measurable (keyword) value are highly regarded and likely to enjoy job security.
• Read these books.
1. How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
2. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, by Carmine Gallo
3. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing: Proven Professional Techniques for Writing with Style and Power, by Gary Provost
Regarding how rapidly AI is emerging, keep a close eye on it! Nobody, not even the Internet talking heads who are suddenly "AI experts," knows where AI is heading. One thing is certain: Many jobs will be eliminated as employers identify which jobs they can delegate to AI. Hence, avoid positions that AI is likely to be able to do in the future.
Volatile economic conditions coupled with rapid technological advancements have created a job market in flux like never before; hence, my last piece of advice: Never lose sight of your career goals.
Despite all the job market volatility, building a career you love is still possible by focusing on what you are good at while embracing lifelong learning.
Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what's on his mind from Toronto