By Caroline Mutoko.
Graduates of 2012, good morning! I’m not waiting until the ceremony in December or whenever to tell you what you need to know. The ceremony is just that – a ceremony. An important one, but a ceremony all the same. If your last day on campus was May 31, get on your combat boots and let’s get to work.
This is not a mushy nice “the world is yours for the taking” piece to make you feel good about having gone through four or five years of college. If you wasted the last four years partying and acting like your were owed, you’re about to go through a period where you feel like you are having your heart ripped out by a piranha, getting shat on by a bird, and having three midgets kick you in the nuts – all at the same time.
I call it as I see it and know it. Read up if you have the balls for it, walk away if you can’t stand a reality check this early in the morning. Your employers will brace, lock-and-load as they absorb you into their
organisations. Three maybe four out of every ten will amount to something – the rest will wake up from their “I’m the ish” haze in their mid-30s. Why? Well, because most of your contributions will be substandard and lack ambition, frustrating and of limited productivity. Read, I said most.
Incidentally, allow me to say this to your face before you hear it from your new colleges and even your parents at some point in the next one year. Majority of you are spoiled. You are spoiled by the “our youth need jobs” song sang by NGOs, politicians who want your votes and other people who know you are fickle enough to buy into the idea that your life is in someone else’s hands and therefore someone else’s headache. And while you are waiting for that “someone” to come and deliver you so you can tweet about it, the smart 10 per cent will move on and get on, knowing they must. Success and superstar status is not the domain of the gifted or lucky, but of the prepared.
College teaches you how to think. Don’t ever look me in the face and give me that sob story about how “who needs college, college is over-rated”. No my friend, you need to be able to think and engage at a higher level. Don’t give us any lip about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or even P Diddy and how they didn’t even complete college. They make 0.000001 per cent of the world’s success stories and they got their Aha moment while in college. If they were smoking a joint, or trading stupid tales while in a pub, nothing of this magnitude would have come to them. They were in an environment that fosters big thinking.
That’s what an institution of higher learning does – it opens your mind to possibilities. Please note, not a single one of those people will allow anyone without a college degree to work for them. Oh, did that sting? It should. Even if they didn’t finish college they are smart to know that they are the chosen few. Everyone else who works for them must be sharp. They want the best brains available. Get it? Good. Now let’s talk about what they didn’t teach you in college and what the world is looking for:
1.You must be able to speak and write English fluently: I rave about it all the time and I’m glad to see that in the past two weeks The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The New York Times and NDTV India have said the same. If you can’t speak and write the language of business, then forget you. Period. So the onus is on you – to develop comprehensive English skills, both written and oral.
2. You must be good at problem-solving, seeking new ways of doing things: I despair to this very day when some random person says “I’m not paid to think for them”. Really? As my CEO told me ages ago, “don’t bring me problems, I have plenty, bring me solutions”. We already have regular people working here, we are looking for new energy and thinking and you will have to do time before we give you a break.
3. Take charge of your career and invest in new skills: I said this in Management Magazine I’ll say it again. It’s your life, get on with it. If you think the company you work for owes you, you’re in for a very rude shock. This is not 1989. I have had a lot of Facebook and e-mail activity in the last three days because I mentioned that I want to go to Harvard for three weeks next year. I need to upgrade my thinking, I need to see people who have done more than I can imagine, so I can grow. It’s not complicated. When I joined Women in Leadership Learning Series at Strathmore about two years ago, I was going to grow. The difficulty for me is how to raise the fees to go to Harvard, but go, grow and learn I must. Will Kiss pay? Probably not? Is that a deal breaker? Hell no. I’m talking to different people, I’m asking for ways and ideas on how I can get the funding, I’d like to earn it where possible etc. Why is that so hard for most people to get – I want to learn. Many of you feel that once you have got the requisite degree or the title or the salary, you can go into cruise control.
The desire to be spoon-fed, to be directed down a straight and narrow path with each career step neatly laid out will kill you. Your career, your life starts and ends with you. The job of your employer is to ensure you have the tools, resources and opportunities you need to be successful. The rest is up to you. Whether you love or hate your first job out of college, keep in mind that it probably isn’t forever. Continue learning and making yourself a valuable human being, and you’ll succeed at whatever you do. And whether they give you the corner office by December this year or by February next year, carry the words of Stewart Brand in 1974 with you, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”. Godspeed to each and every one of you – Vision 2030 depends on you.