On October 5, 2011, Apple co-founder and chairperson Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. Since then, many people are re-visiting the commencement speech Jobs delivered at Stanford University in 2005. Packed with general life lessons, the speech also has valuable tips for finding meaningful work and sustaining a fulfilling career. Here are some of the highlights:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
There are many variables in life, known and unknown. For Jobs, one of his “unknowns” was pancreatic cancer. However, he was able to live his days with fulfillment and happiness by deciding what was in his control and following his passions. Let this be a good reminder to each of us to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”
(For a written transcript of Jobs’ speech, click here.)
In the movie Forrest Gump (1994), Forrest befriends Bubba, a soldier with a passion for shrimp. In a scene from the movie, Bubba explains the many ways shrimp can be prepared:
Just like the many options that exist for preparing shrimp, there is a wide array of possibilities for college majors. You will invest much of your time and energy into the major of your choice, so it should be something that excites you. Additionally, you probably want to know that the major you choose will lead to gainful employment that keeps you satisfied beyond your years in the classroom.
You should feel empowered to study what you love, in spite of the myths that exist that may make it scary to do this:
Myth: You’ll never get the job you want unless you pick the “right” major. Truth: Students across all academic disciplines land exciting jobs every day!
Myth: Everyone in my life will disown me if I choose the “wrong” major. Truth: While your choice of major may prove to be shocking to others in your life at first, you will find encouragement and support from others throughout your process.
It is important to explore your options. UVM has a very rich, diverse curriculum and faculty and staff who are here to support your learning. You can also research possible majors and career outcomes by using the resources offered by Career Services, and outside resources (such as MyMajors.com). You should gather as much information as you need to make your decision comfortably and confidently.
If you are a current UVM student and want to talk more about choosing a major, please come to drop-in hours at Career Services, L/L E-140, Monday- Thursday from 1-4, or at the Davis Center on Tuesdays from 11-1, in Rosa Parks Place.
Hollywood has given us plenty of examples of workplace happenings, including glimpses into the job search process. From hilariously absurd job interviews to heartwarming interviews gone right, we have lots of examples of what to do and what not to do.
In Step Brothers (2008), the characters of Brennan and Dale are two unemployed, middle-aged men are forced to get jobs when their parents marry. Unfamiliar with proper interview etiquette, they find themselves in situations like the following:
To be clear, this video demonstrates what not to do when interviewing. Some tips we can learn from these guys:
Know who you’re speaking with: When interviewing, be sure you know your interviewer’s name. “Human Resources Lady” won’t cut it.
Dress to impress…not to overwhelm: Although it’s harder to overdress for an interview than it can be to underdress, this isn’t prom. For more information on appropriate dress, see our website.
Alternatively, we have the real-life success story Chris Gardner, portrayed by Will Smith in 2006’s Pursuit of Happyness. The homeless single-father seeks an opportunity to improve the lives of him and his son:
This is a great clip because it gives a realistic glimpse into the interview process. Everything didn’t go well for Chris, but he made the most of his situation by being proactive. Here’s what we can learn:
Determination: Research companies you want to work for and keep your eye out for new opportunities.
Network: Chris made a connection with an employee of the company, and that relationship paid off- he got the interview and had someone to vouch for him in the process!
While life is not a movie, these clips definitely leave us with ideas to ponder. To learn more about preparing for an interview in the real world, visit our site.
Check out this recent article, “It’s Not About You.” by New York Times columnist David Brooks. He discusses the problem of making a career or life decision amongst “limitless possibilities.”
The answer articulated in this article is not to focus on ourselves, but rather to engage with our communities and finds issues and problems that we want to commit our energies to. He writes, “Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”
So, how do you find something to commit yourself to, “to lose yourself” in?
The title of this post is a quote from Sargent Shriver, the man who created the Peace Corps. Sargent Shriver, or “Sarge,” as he was known, was one of the most influential public servants of the second half of the last century. He founded, inspired, or directed numerous social programs including VISTA, Job Corps, Upward Bound, and Head Start. He served as the director of Special Olympics (which was created by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver), and he was a Vice Presidential candidate in 1972 for the Democratic Party nomination with presidential candidate Senator George McGovern.
While this is certainly an impressive list of accomplishments, every one started with an idea about how to fill a community need. It’s important to remember that each of these programs—which we might now think of as very large, and of course, successful—began with the recognition that each of those communities had a need. And that each program started as a creative solution to fill those needs. For example, the Peace Corps started with countries that wanted volunteers. For more on that, check out this 1960s talk show footage from a David Garroway program that features Sargent Shriver talking about the Peace Corps. I was especially struck by what Shriver says about how Peace Corps locations were chosen.
Some fun Peace Corps trivia: Sargent Shriver was very involved with the Peace Corps volunteers—so much so that at one point, there were 300 dogs belonging to Peace Corps Volunteers around the world named “Sarge.”
If you would like to learn more about Sargent Shriver’s life and the efforts to begin programs like the Peace Corps, VISTA, the War on Poverty and more, you might be interested in the documentary American Idealist, which aired on PBS in 2008. The DVD is available on campus from the resource library at Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning.
There is also a website dedicated to the Sargent Shriver that includes more biographical information, speeches, and reflections from those who knew him. Seeing all that Sarge accomplished might seem intimidating for someone just starting in their career (or even if you have lots of experience!); you might be interested in reading this poem he wrote in 2002 called “I Am A Man.” You might also be interested in the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute.
As you consider your own career path, here are a few questions to think about:
-What needs have you seen in our community? What can you do to help address these needs?
-When thinking about your campus and community involvements, how might you continue these involvements as part of your career?
-How can you take your passions and turn them into a career?
UPDATE: UVM is among the top 25 schools in number of Peace Corps volunteers! 34 UVM alumni are currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers, and since 1961, 783 UVM alums have been Peace Corps volunteers. For more, see this article.