Most of the graduation ceremonies and celebrations are over now. Young people, and some not so young, have rightly celebrated great achievements and are now looking forward to the start of the next phase of their lives.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of speakers have taken to stages around the nation to provide motivational comments about the graduate’s futures. Now that the caps and gowns are put away and the party venues cleaned and straightened, I too have a message, but not for the graduates. My graduation message is for those who will hire them and help them transition to the real world. I’m mainly referring to younger graduates. I don’t mean to slight those who celebrate academic achievement later in life, I’m among your numbers, but you already have some experience of the world outside academia.
Remember your own experiences. What was it like, that transition from school to full-time employment? Did someone help you or did you feel like you were just thrown in the deep end expected to learn on your own? Well, now it’s your opportunity and I urge you to:
- Forget the generation label. Your new team members are unique individuals. It doesn’t matter when they were born. What does matter is who they are, what skills they have, what they can contribute to the team. It’s your job to learn those things about each team member. That’s hard to do if you can’t see past the generation label.
- Don’t coddle. Unfortunately, much of academia has become a place where students are shielded from serious discussion and debate. Anything that might upset them is suppressed. Now, it’s your responsibility to introduce them to a world where opposing opinions are encouraged and carefully managed debate leads to better results.
- Teach them to communicate. Real communication seems to be becoming a lost art. Good team cohesion does not happen with only social media, text messages, and emojis. Face-to-face communication is essential and the ability to form coherent sentences both written and verbal is an important skill.
- Give them opportunities to succeed. Many “experts” talk about self-esteem, although few really understand it. Most of the discussion seems to revolve around the idea that it can be given to others. That’s bunk. Self-esteem is important, but not something anyone can give. What you as a leader can give is the opportunity to successfully meet challenges. That success is how real self-esteem is earned.
- Don’t step aside. This seems odd, but it’s important. Especially with new team members who seem highly motivated, it’s tempting to just step aside and let them go. In fact, many young people have a high sense of their ability and may want you to do that. They may be successful, but more likely they will flounder or head off in the wrong direction. Even though they may indicate that they can take on the task without you, you still need to be there to provide the occasional gentle course correction. You are their safety net.
- Be willing to learn from them. Your job is to help your new team members develop, but you can also learn. You may be thinking, “What could they possibly teach me?” You might be surprised. Ask your new team member’s opinion. It makes them feel like they are an important part of the team, and who knows, they may have an idea your more seasoned members didn’t consider.
Welcome the new graduate to the team and be prepared to be amazed.