After A Daunting Year For College Students, Here Are 3 Lessons For The Class Of 2024

Across the nation, millions of college seniors are drawing their higher education journey to a close and preparing to step onto the commencement stage—a significant moment that marks their formal entry into the professional world. This juncture, laden with emotion and anxiety, is particularly poignant for the Class of 2024. Having embarked on their collegiate careers amidst the pandemic and endured the subsequent economic challenges, these graduates have faced exceptional adversity. The transition from the familiar to new experiences such as graduate school, internship programs, or new jobs can be incredibly daunting. Having once experienced this myself, I delved into these moments of unfamiliarity and discomfort with the Luther College Class of 2024. During my commencement speech, I imparted three fundamental principles that have been pivotal in my professional and personal journey.

**Repetition Builds Reputation**

Contrary to popular belief, your reputation is not forged through grand accolades or high-profile jobs. It is shaped by your daily responses—how you conduct yourself in times of stress, pride, disappointment, and everything in between—regardless of the situation or the audience. Your reputation grows from how you treat and communicate with others. In professional settings, this means acknowledging not just the key stakeholders or leadership but also the advisors and teammates who support you. Equally important is the practice of communicating with others not just when you need something, but when they do as well. This is where true connections are made. Your daily actions define who you become and establish your reputation.

**Don’t Get Mad. Stay Curious**

Gaining diverse perspectives is invaluable. When someone disagrees with you, makes an inflammatory comment, or provides tough feedback, seize the opportunity to ask questions and understand different viewpoints. You don’t have to agree with them, but having the openness to inquire makes you wiser. This lesson was personally significant when I joined Handshake, transitioning not only into a new role but also into a new industry with unfamiliar lingo and practices. By resisting the urge to dismiss new or uncomfortable things as wrong and instead spending months asking questions, I expanded my knowledge base and toolkit of skills. Curiosity is essential for growth, fostering trust and mutual understanding critical for leading change. Both personally and professionally, curiosity will enhance your performance in future roles.

**Do Hard Better**

I have always resonated with the quote, “Things don’t get easier. You just get better.” Life and work will present numerous challenges that seem hard initially. Reflect on childhood when walking, talking, and riding a bike were difficult, as were high school and college. Through persistence, curiosity, and repetition, you overcame these challenges and improved. As you commence your careers, you will encounter new difficulties. Trust in your ability to learn and surmount new challenges just as you have in the past. You’ve done it before; you can do it again.

In conclusion, these three lessons, shared with the Luther College graduates, have guided me through various jobs and significant life experiences, shaping who I am today. I hope they inspire you as you begin this new chapter. Cultivate intentionality in your daily actions, engage inquisitively with the world around you, and navigate adversities with resilience.

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