Spring graduation is upon us again. This important milestone provides an opportunity to congratulate our graduates for their past accomplishments, and also to share advice for achieving future success.
Working with students for over 20 years has convinced me that most young people want to succeed, but that they may not fully understand how to succeed. We can empower future success in our graduates by helping them understand what they need to know, develop the skills they need, and maintain the right attitude.
Help Your Graduate Understand What They Need to Know
Our graduates should understand that success requires lifelong learning. Problems change. Solutions change. Opportunities change. Graduates who continually advance their skills and abilities are better equipped for success over the long haul. Encourage your graduate to engage in activities that improve existing skills and that develop new skills.
Reflection is an important lifelong learning activity. Help your graduate understand that every activity they engage in has two outcomes. The first outcome is the result of the activity itself. The second outcome, which can be just as important, is the knowledge gained. Encourage your graduate to reflect on his or her activities and experiences. What could have been done differently? What was learned? How can this new knowledge be applied in the future? Applying this insight fosters continual improvement.
Graduates also should understand that achieving success commonly requires navigating through obstacles and overcoming setbacks. Share with your graduate examples of how you moved past an obstacle or overcame a setback. Help your graduate identify obstacles that he or she has already overcome. Doing so gives your graduate perspective and confidence to handle future challenges.
Help Your Graduate Develop Success Skills
Graduates should understand that a well-developed skill set allows them to perform at the level of their true ability. Graduates also should understand that new skills are required as they advance in their education and career. Despite their importance, skills in communication, time management, critical thinking, and problem solving are commonly reported as lacking in recent graduates.
High school graduates who go on to college can develop success skills and gain valuable real-world experience by participating in student organizations and service activities. Skills also can be gained by participating in internships, undergraduate research, service learning, and study abroad programs. Your graduate can ask about these opportunities during campus visits and can follow up with his or her advisor once on campus this fall.
If your graduate is entering the workforce, encourage him or her to take advantage of training opportunities on the job. Continuing education courses also provide opportunities to refine and expand skills, and many of these courses are available online. Mentoring is another skill-building opportunity for recent graduates.
Help Your Graduate Maintain the Right Attitude
We can empower success in our graduates by instilling in them the belief that they can succeed. An attitude of success is characterized by confidence without arrogance and by humility without timidity.
A successful graduate has the confidence to seek out and engage in challenging opportunities that stretch his or her abilities. These opportunities increase knowledge and provide new skills and experiences.
A successful graduate also has the humility to seek help when needed and to respond appropriately to constructive criticism. Doing so fosters continual improvement and contributes to long term growth.
As you search for graduation gifts, remember that your greatest gift is your wisdom and advice. Take the time to help your graduate construct a realistic expectation for achieving success. Much of the advice provided here was derived from “Leadership and Soft Skills for Students: Empowered to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond.” Visit Leadership and Soft Skills for special graduation savings on this book.
Cary J Green, Ph.D spent 20 years as a teacher and leader in higher education, and now equips young people with success skills through books and other resources. Green also provides tailored presentations to schools and other organizations. Contact Cary Green here, or visit Leadershipandsoftskills.com for more information and free resources.