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Parting Advice

Kyle McIntosh

HALF OF THE COLLEGE students I taught last semester just graduated. A few are going on to graduate school, but most are starting accounting, finance or other business careers. For my classes with a heavy concentration of seniors, I reserve the last five minutes of the final class to give them a few career tips. In keeping with my overall teaching approach, I keep the message simple: Do what you enjoy.

Now, this isn’t the usual “follow your passion” pitch you hear in so many commencement addresses. In fact, I start by saying that most of us won’t follow our passion. Often, it isn’t practical to do so. Because we can’t all be passion-driven, we need to find ways to make our day-to-day work enjoyable. I encourage my graduates to find ways to incorporate things they enjoy into their career. There are two specific tips I share.

First, I recommend graduates use their skills to enter an industry that interests them. Many students have “dream” industries they’d like to work in, such as sports, not-for-profits and life sciences. But most judge it too difficult to land a job in these industries, so they apply to businesses that don’t excite them.

To be sure, graduates with technical majors—think accounting and information technology—may have an easier time getting their foot in the door of a preferred industry. But all graduates have skills, such as problem solving and communication, that are useful in any industry. If you have a genuine interest in an industry, I believe you should make putting your skills to work in that industry your focus. The fact is, if you’re working in your “dream” industry, chances are you’ll be more successful and more fulfilled.

Second, I encourage graduates to prioritize doing things they enjoy at work. These things might not be specifically related to your day-to-day responsibilities. Instead, they might include things like recruiting new employees from your alma mater, leading training sessions or working on special projects. It could even include organizing the company’s sports teams. Assuming you do these things well and they don’t detract from your core duties, you’ll be viewed favorably by your manager and your peers—and you’ll likely enjoy your job more.

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