Share your advice for the Class of 2011

So what if commencement was two weeks ago? It’s advice season on the Internet. Everyone picks the end of May and early June to dish their pearls of advice career-related or not. But instead of fighting it, I welcome the deluge of wisdom both good, bad and mediocre. I encourage you to consider this an open thread in the comments: what advice would you give to the class of 2011 at Middlebury?

Below are selected excerpts from the Middlebury College Community LinkedIN group in a discussion titled: “What I wish I had known at Middlebury”:

Jackie H. ’07: “Networking is not just about getting jobs—actually, that’s only a small part of it. As a young professional, your primary goal in networking should be learning from people who are older and more experienced than you. So reach out to people who are doing something you think you might someday like to be doing, and have a real conversation with them. Find out how they found their passion, what hurdles they met along the way, and what their favorite movie is. And breathe. Oddly enough, people really love talking about themselves if you show a genuine interest in their lives, so don’t be afraid that you’re burdening anyone. In this day and age, virtually everyone’s contact information can be obtained somehow, so do a little sleuthing and reach out to a variety of different people.”

Gordon M.F. ’66: “When our son, Art, was at Middlebury my wife and I came up for a Parents’ Weekend and heard then President Robinson address the students and parents in the Chapel. I’ll never forget the outburst from an angry father who challenged the President from the back of the Chapel. The father was angry and frustrated that his son was due to graduate the following spring and had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do after college and had no marketable skills. It was as if the guy had pitched a slow ball across the plate. Robinson slugged the ball out of the ballpark with his response. He cited all sorts of statistics on the careers of alumni. He said that less than 1% of the alumni 25 years after graduation were doing anything remotely related to their undergraduate majors. Rather, the typical Middlebury graduate may have three to five different careers by the time they retire. He stated the true value of a superb liberal arts foundation gives the graduate critical analytic tools, intellectual curiosity, and self discipline to adapt and move in different directions as we face inevitable setbacks and pursue new opportunities. From the perspective of one of “the old guard,” my advice to the new grads is to find your passion, continue your live long learning, and have fun. And don’t hesitate to jump into another career or two along the way.”

Bruce C. ’83: “Sometimes the most difficult aspect of a “career” is doing something not approved by family members and friends, even though you enjoy the work. I have sold commercial Real Estate (yuck), worked with Xerox (fun), Hitachi (also fun), moved sight unseen to Australia and found work with a small company that went out of business, HP and Data General. After moving back to the States, changed to J&J pharmaceutical research (huh?… not sure what I was thinking) and then NYC pharmaceutical advertising for about 7 years (truly great fun). When life began moving faster than my wife and I wanted…. we regrouped and moved to a small VT town, where I shifted to high school teaching, administration, etc. My liberal arts education helped in my thinking big picture. With a little courage and the will to part from others expectations of what a “career” looks like, anything is possible.”

(photo via flickr/charlestilford)