With graduations upon us, I harken back to a time when I was graduating from Villanova. My graduation ceremony included a most notable speaker named James Michner. However, he spoke to the Art & Sciences graduates and not we who ventured into business. Our speaker was an economist who told all the eager and enthusiastic newest alumni members that we were going to have trouble finding a job. That was in 1978.
This economist deflated us at a time when we were venturing into a brave new world. This pales in comparison to what Bill Gates did to a recent high school class. Gates, the person you love to hate, is someone who has made an incredible mark on the world. He created not just a product, but an entire industry.
In his speech, Gates told the “kids” about “11 things they did not learn in school.” In addition, Gates talked about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a full generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world. Was he being just like my economist commencement speaker? For better or worse, Bill espoused these precious gems of advice:
1 Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it.
2 Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to carry out something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
3 Rule 3: You will NOT make $40 thousand a year right out of high school. You won’t be a Vice President with a car phone, until you earn both.
4 Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.
5 Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping – they called it opportunity.
6 Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes – learn from them.
7 Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
8 Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
9 Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
10 Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
11 Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
Ouch Bill, that’s going to leave a mark. Sure it is reality, but couldn’t you have gone a little easier on the kids? After all, when we hire these graduates, aren’t they going to expect large salaries, short hours, long lunches, stock options, zero contribution benefits, corner offices, company cars, Monday’s off, half day Friday’s, not being held accountability, and no consequences for their actions? Probably.
So, we as decision-makers need to be very clear in our communication with them. Start at the interviewing process. Give the potential candidate the mission of the company, a company overview, a job description, and list of duties. State the policy on benefits, start and stop times and expected dress and conduct in the office. We must detail our expectations of them and the consequences if these aren’t met. All of these items need to be written, read and discussed.
In all situations, we need to communicate completely and thoroughly – always. Even more importantly, we need to demand the same from others. If the buzz word for Dustin Hoffman’s Graduate was “plastics,” ours is “communicate.”