President Barack Obama's commencement speech
YouTube

It was only when I started watching this year’s commencement speeches that I really realized how many valuable nuggets were available for the taking—fresh out of school or not. Sure, President Obama geared his words of wisdom to Howard’s class of 2016 first and foremost, and yes, Jane Goodall and Sheryl Sandberg’s words were no doubt written with the newly minted grads in mind, but all of the advice this year (and every year) can be applied to you, no matter what stage of your career you happen to be in.

With that in mind, I highly recommend taking two minutes out of your day to watch this video of the best graduation speeches of 2016, because although you may be tempted to hear Michael Bloomberg’s praise that “You survived so much to get here,” as a simple and worthy acknowledgement of the students who’ve been bestowed degrees from the University of Michigan, the words can easily be taken to heart for any one of you listening. Regardless of where you are professionally and personally, no matter what you’ve accomplished so far or wish you’d achieved, you survived a whole lot to get to the unique place you find yourself in at this very moment.



When Bill Shore, founder and CEO of No Kid Hungry: Share Our Strength told the crowd at the University of Pennsylvania that they, “made miracles happen,” there’s no reason why you too can’t sit back and ponder the very miracles you’ve made happen thus far in your life. Whether it was nailing an on-the-spot presentation, snagging a promotion that nearly went to someone else, or changing your career, you have every reason to be proud of all that you’ve done, great and small.

Even though Steven Spielberg’s statement that “What you choose to do next is what we call in the movies a character-defining moment,” can be taken in the context of what the graduates are about to embark upon as far as job decisions go, it can also be interpreted to be understood by anyone who finds himself at a moment of career transition, of questioning what it is you want to do with your life.

Maybe it’s as simple as figuring out a way to communicate with your micromanaging boss so that your day-to-day is more productive and fulfilling and less miserable. Perhaps it’s learning to understand how your ambivert tendencies can help you advance professionally. Or, maybe it’s learning to deal with condescending co-workers by standing up for yourself. Character-defining moments don’t just come into play when you do something major like graduate college—they are ongoing, happening whenever you rightfully allow them to.

Be excellent. Be nice. Be impatient. Put your phone down. Sage advice for both the new grad and the mid-level professional. As President Obama said, “You all have some work to do,” and my response is, don’t we all? Don’t we all?