• Graduates Urged to "Follow Your Passion"

6/17/2008

Contact:  Paul Tanklefsky
617-573-8480, ptanklef@suffolk.edu


As a long time career professional, I’m used to dispensing advice and words of wisdom to recent graduates.  This year is different, yet familiar.  What’s unique is that my son graduates from college in a few weeks, yet my advice remains steadfast – pursue your passion and the rest will follow.

Sometimes following your dreams means taking the less traveled, less certain path than your classmates and resisting societal norms to immediately secure the safety of a classic white collar job with a good salary, benefits, and a start on the American dream.  There’s plenty of time for all of that (most working careers span over 40 years) but the window of opportunity to “go for it” and pursue your calling is short and fleeting. 
 
Whatever your passion – pursuing music, becoming a journalist, delving into the health professions, joining a political campaign, teaching overseas or entering the business world – pursue it with vigor and commitment and good things will follow.  Since your following your niche, you’ll likely be good at it, be recognized quickly for your abilities, start meeting the right people, and with a little bit of luck, start to see your career take shape and definition on your terms.  And with time, you will realize the compensation and benefits as well as the intrinsic rewards you desire.  

So, here’s some advice to the class of 2008 that will help you stay on your course:

. Follow your passion – there is no better time than now -- while you are young and unburdened by a mortgage, family, financial obligations -- to pursue what you were meant to do.  And give it time to gain some traction and realize some progress.   If you make it great; if not you will never have to say “what if?”  and you will have plenty of time to re-direct your career.

. Get the best experience money can’t buy – don’t make your decision on what to pursue based on the benefits, salary, and perks.  Instead err on the side of the kind of experience and exposure that puts you in the center of your universe of interest and tap it for all it’s worth.

 And full-time employment with benefits while often considered the idealized route, is not always the best or only initial route, depending on your circumstances.  Part-time work, freelancing, even interning after graduation may give you the experience and skills you need to compete for the next level of opportunity.

. Believe in yourself – travel the less traveled road and you are guaranteed to confront the naysayers who will say it’s impossible to break into that field, that you should do something more practical, and that you have to have health insurance.  All those external influences (parents, the media, adults) mean well, but never lose sight of the fact that it’s your life and your career. 

Maybe the best advice for recent grads comes from an unlikely philosopher.  In the movie Caddyshack, an impatient Rodney Dangerfield exclaims to a foursome of deliberate golfers, “Let’s go while were young.”  Who knew he could be so prophetic.


Paul Tanklefsky is director of career services and cooperative education at Suffolk University in Boston and a 25-year veteran of the career field. 

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