Having actually only attended one of my own three graduations from college (University of Georgia…the other two degrees were earned from Golden Gate University extension programs while I was in the Air Force and I always seemed to be somewhere else on graduation day), I didn’t fully grasp the significance of “commencement” until I started my college teaching career.
Now that I’ve been a PR professor at Curry College for more than a decade and have been to easily a dozen or more ceremonies, I’ve gained a somewhat clearer insight into the true significance of the tradition.
I’ve seen, both from the audience as a spectator and from the stage as a presenter, the range of emotions on the faces of the degree recipients. Lots of stiff upper lips and bravado; equal amounts of hesitant glances and expressions.
So what does all this mean for you, the graduate?
For many of you, this will be your first encounter with the continuing series of unknowns that “life,” which your, parents as well as your professors, caution you about, will throw your way.
You’re on your own…not literally, but in a figurative sense. You’re “grown up” now, and your “cheerleaders” who have always been on the sidelines congratulating you when you succeed, picking you up and dusting you off when you trip and fall, are waiting expectantly for your next play.
This is a time of transition. But many things will remain the same, just with different names sometimes.
Throughout college, you have had your professors and faculty advisors to whom you could turn for guidance as well as your circle of friends/roommates/classmates with whom you could compare notes and figure out what to do about a challenge.
Now, you are moving into the world of “networks” and “colleagues,” “supervisors” and “clients.” But the interactions will be the same. As you move onward and (we hope!) upward, you will find yourself turning to these professional connections for advice.
Do it! They’ve been in your shoes! They know what you’re going through because they’ve been there!!
It’s a daunting prospect, this “graduation” tradition. Deep inside, you know you’re the same person who walked across the stage, shook the president’s hand, and clamped your clammy hand tightly on your diploma. But…
Now “life” is standing there at the foot of the stage waiting impatiently for you to step off and into its welcoming arms.
Here’s the good news, though. You are ready for this next step. Everything that you have done and seen over the past seeming lifetime of experiences has prepared you.
Maybe you don’t have a full-time job nailed down yet…you’re not the only one. But all that you’ve done…your studies…your internship(s)…your informational interviewing…your PRSSA and other on-campus involvement…has given you a pretty solid foothold on the career ladder.
Step off the stage proudly. Take a deep breath, look “life” square in the eyes, and say confidently, “Bring it on!”
Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He also is Visiting Lecturer, Organizational and Professional Communication (Graduate), at Regis College in Weston, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk was inducted into PRSA’s prestigious College of Fellows in 2009 and is one of just two actively-teaching college professors in Massachusetts to have earned this distinction. You can read more of Kirk’s musings at his blog “A Professor’s Thought” and follow him on Twitter @KirkHazlett.