What on earth do you advise 2020 graduates?


Wow, what on earth would you say to a graduate this year about his or her future?

Here in the age of COVID-19, there is more uncertainty now than any time during my lifetime.

With 33,000,000 Americans out of work, these are bigger joblessness numbers than the Great Depression 90 years ago.

I have often given commencement addresses and always write a special message to grads column this time of year.

For over 50 years, I have been writing columns called messages for graduates. Almost every one of the other columns was concerned about jobs and the economy. But this year would be different.

This is the talk that I would give if asked to speak in high schools in Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Kemmerer, Evanston, Lander, Riverton, Afton, Powell, Sheridan, Worland, Wheatland, Torrington, Casper, Newcastle, Sundance, Upton, Greybull, Basin, Pine Bluffs, Lusk, Bridger Valley, or any other city or town where my column appears. Here is that talk in written form: This year, where do I start?

In less than six months, we went from the best economy in history to the worst.

To a graduate sitting in a hot, crowded auditorium pondering that biggest of all questions: “What is going to happen to me?” well, I want to tell you that these times can be times of opportunity just as easily as they can be times of worry.

On a personal note, we have two grandchildren graduating this year. Our love and prayers go out to Hayden Johnson and Alexys Gibbons.

Let me share with you four big points:

My first point: This is not your fault. If you have troubles, do not beat yourself up. Nobody in the world saw this pandemic coming. One of the most important indicators of success in life is timing.  I usually tout the importance of good timing.  How to deal with bad timing is another subject, altogether. But you play the cards you are dealt. Get ready for the fight of your life. 

My second point:  You are not alone. Besides those millions of other grads, you are joining over 30 million people out of work. This might be a time for the U. S. government to create some “make work” projects. During these times, you need to be resourceful.

My third point:  Rely on family and friends. In 90 percent of the instances, these last few months have been a wonderful bonding time.  With their college-age children in their homes with them have provided unforgettable memories.  Cherish these times.

My fourth point: Take the long view. One of the best known and worn-out phrases connected with all this is the term “2020 Hindsight,” which will be used a few billion times to describe these times.  Try to anticipate the opportunities ahead.

As an aside, and just to young men, when I graduated from high school in 1964, it may actually have been a time of more uncertainty than today in 2020. We were facing the draft and the prospect of fighting in the Vietnam War, way back then.

But there are still jobs out there and you need to go after them. If you are a hard worker with industrious habits and good ethics, the future is very bright.

Employers are looking for good workers.  And they are looking for good people. And most of them want to hire you for a long, long time. They are looking as hard for you as you are looking for them.

I always tell young people that it is not who you know or what you know.  It is who you know and what you know that will ensure your future.

Time is on your side.  It helps that 25 million baby boomers are retiring in the next ten years.

Another big tip is to locate mentors who are in the career field of business you are interested in. Cultivate friendships with them and ask for advice.  You will be surprised at how helpful they can be to your career.

You grads heading out into the world of new jobs need to be alert and savvy to trends in your fields.  Endeavor to stay ahead of the curve.

I see a future that is as bright as ever for the young person willing to work hard, make friends and perhaps, most of all, “keep learning” as you grow into your careers.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

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