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To 2016 Graduates: It’s not what you know, It’s what you do

By Dan Pool

Editor

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To the all the classes of 2016 everywhere, regardless of whether you are from Pickens High School, homeschooled, a private school or UGA, Ga. Tech or Chattahoochee Tech. Congratulations, you did it. You finished what you started and hopefully gained something along the way.

You probably have learned more about math, biology and physics than any of us old codgers (defined as those over the age of 25) know. Regardless of all the critics, schools have gotten progressively more advanced in what they teach. You may even know more about English than many of us (and are thinking how this piece could be much better right now); though I fully believe that texting and social media rants have set back the written language/ literacy by at least 300 years.

I will assure you that all you recent graduates know more about SnapChat, creating cute online “memes” (funny pictures), how to put a dog’s face on a friend’s selfie, how to stalk that cute guy/girl online, how to download music for free, how to find an address using a telephone, how to quickly learn the latest Kardashian news and 1 billion other bits of modern trivia that come naturally to you, but leave older generations clueless.

But, please note, none of the above skills offer you any advantage in finding a job. Neither will a school of higher learning nor an employer, nor the military rush to greet you because you have 7,000 followers online.

There might come a day when people can solely rely on messaging to land a job, but as long as older people are doing the hiring, you’d better be ready to go old school with a handshake and eye-to-eye interviews.

On the other hand, and at risk of making most of the faculty sitting out on graduation fields angry, I am not sure than the curriculum you students learned in the classroom is of much more value than the finer points of playing Angry Birds. There have been no circumstances I can recall in my life where being able to decipher exactly how Hamlet felt about his father or when to use the Pythagorean theorem has come into play.

I once surprised a local educator by saying that I didn’t put any stock into advanced degrees in journalism or much of anything else. When it comes to hiring at the Progress, I’d trade practical experience for classroom learning any day. I am supported in my belief by a friend who once worked at the University of Chicago, and regularly advised that degrees are like power tools – unless you know how you are going to use it, going back for more education is like coming home with a fancy machine and nothing to do with it.

Recent graduates reading this may be thinking if that is true, why in the world should I go to college. Actually there are several reasons.

A lot of jobs are closed to people without  education beyond high school. Plain and simple you need the tool (a bachelor’s degree) to even get your foot in the door. Just don’t expect that online degree to really land you a bunch of high paying jobs, like the television commercials promise.

College/ tech school/ the military are environment rich with opportunity corridors. Consider for a moment how many success stories start with the founders of a company meeting in college and beginning something outside of a classroom, which led to a career. In college, you may not go into the field you studied, but you will learn how to learn and handle assignments.

Degrees are important to open doors and obtain skills, but success is made by putting what you know into practice. Doing things energetically and effectively trumps all the papers with fancy seals that you can fit on a wall.

With the motto of Nike, now is the time to “just do it.” 

 

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