Class of Now

May 21, 2014

It’s the season of commencement. Thousands of young hopefuls heading off into the world amid whirlwinds of pomp, circumstance and custom-decorated open house sheet cakes.

Remember the feeling? Adjusting your mortarboard. Smiling for photos. Hugging your family. Nothing could stand in your way. They told you to:

So… how’s it coming out there in the real world? Would the old you in the cap and gown approve?

Graduation inspiration – and the energy, enthusiasm and exuberance it creates – shouldn’t fade away. Every day is a new opportunity to study, learn, innovate and make a difference. Trouble is it’s easy to forget that feeling when life’s inevitable challenges get in our way.

I’m no life coach, but I’ve always been interested in happiness and motivation at work. And it seems I’m always pursuing that graduation day mixture of joy/potential/optimism (and yeah, plenty of naïveté) like the fountain of youth.

What if we thought of ourselves as constantly graduating from the Class of Now?

As marketers, we need that edge. When you communicate for a living, it doesn’t pay to be set in your ways with a “this is how it’s always been done” mentality. Graduation day reminds us to welcome change, stay open to new perspectives, envision a bright future and push some envelopes.

The trick is to keep that perspective as we gain experience, wisdom and knowledge throughout our careers. Then, in the words of Dr. Seuss himself … “Oh the places you’ll go.”

Are you the Class of Now type? Test yourself with this quick multiple-choice quiz:

 

1. A new project just landed on your desk. The deadline is tight, the pressure is on and you already have a lot to do. Do you:

a. Take on the challenge. It’s a great opportunity to prove yourself!

b. Explain the situation to your boss and suggest additional resources.

c. All of the above.

d. None of the above. You’ll get to it when you get to it.

 

2. You get passed over for a big assignment or promotion. Do you:

a. Ask for feedback on how you could do better next time.

b. Refocus and leverage your expertise going forward.

c. All of the above.

d. None of the above. You quit! Those jerks never appreciated you anyway.

 

3. You’re leading the team on an important project and things seem to be going off the rails. Do you:

a. Schedule a team meeting to brainstorm ideas. Everyone can help!

b. Meet with everyone individually to identify their unique challenges before suggesting a solution.

c. All of the above.

d. None of the above. Toss those lazy slugs under the bus.

 

4. You’d love to attend an upcoming industry conference, but it’s a little spendy. Do you:

a. Immediately pitch it to your boss. What a great opportunity!

b. Submit a written request outlining how the conference would directly benefit the company, and how you would share what you learn with everyone in your department.

c. All of the above.

d. None of the above. Why ask? If they thought you were valuable they would have come to you with the idea.

 

5. You find yourself with a few hours of downtime at work. Do you:

a. Search for new books, articles, blog posts or thought papers in your field of expertise. The more you learn the better you can be!

b. Go find the interns to see if they can teach you any new tech apps.

c. All of the above.

d. None of the above. Kill the afternoon on Facebook. You don’t need to learn anything new.

 

Okay, those answers are pretty obvious. (Nobody ever accused me of subtlety.) But you get the point: Combine the “prove yourself” energy of your early days with the wisdom of your years of hard-won experience and you’re sure to make your mark. And like every good commencement speech, I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.” (David Ogilvy, of course.)

Go get ‘em, Class of Now!

In case that wasn’t inspiring enough for you, check out TIME Magazine’s compilation of the 10 best commencement speeches of all time.

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