An Open Letter to a Graduating Daughter
The writer's daughter graduates this March from the Ateneo de Manila University,
and he shares his letter of advice to her with all college students graduating
Today is your day. As you sit barely listening to the endless stream of
graduation speeches, a lot of things must be rushing through your head and
producing a mix of emotions.
You must be recalling those days of struggle -- the countless hours spent
studying, doing research, preparing projects, agonizing over possible test
results -- and relief passes through you as you realize that they are finally
Too, your mind must be trying to peer into the future. You daydream of landing
your first job, of earning your first salary, even of eventually getting your
own car, acquiring your own flat and traveling to different places.
But as you gaze around, the sight of your classmates must dampen your
enthusiasm and fuel feelings of anxiety. So many new graduates soon to go
looking for a job, just like you. And you must be wondering: How will I fare in
the job market? Will I be another jobless statistic? Or will I be among the
lucky ones who find a good job right away? How tough is it really out there?
Will I be successful in my chosen career?
Your trepidation is understandable, and I wish I could guarantee your future
for you. But I can't. Only you can decide your fate through the priorities you
set, the decisions you make, the efforts you spend, the sacrifices you make.
The best thing I can do for you today is to share years of insight on how to
effectively manage one's career. These insights come not only from my own
experience but also from observing successful people -- friends and former
classmates, peers in the profession, my superiors, work associates and many
others. They come from different fields and took different approaches, but the
underlying principles for their success are uncannily similar. Here they are:
Have a clear vision. Your vision should be
as clear and as specific as you can make it. Aim as high as you believe you can
go. If you aim too low, you might find the challenge insufficient and the
achievement too shallow. If you aim too high, you may have difficulty hitting
your target and may live a life full of frustration.
Your vision should be something you truly believe will give your life
significance and meaning. Being young, you may think that financial reward or
fame would make you happy. They won't. People with such vision often end up
miserable and empty inside even when they do succeed. To find your vision,
imagine yourself retiring four decades later and asking yourself, "Did my
achievements make me the best of what I could be?"
Draw up a focused plan. This plan will give
you the focus and the general guidelines to attain your vision and mission. For
now, it should contain only the broad strokes and offer answers to the "what"
and the "when." The specifics (the "how") will come later.
It is also very important that you know the value of properly pacing yourself.
A pace that is too fast can lead to exhaustion and burnout. A pace that is too
slow can lead to complacency, meandering and loss of interest.
Right now, you will not be able to determine your correct pace, but you can
start creating a time frame containing rough estimates. With experience, you
will develop a better sense of timing and can adjust your plan accordingly.
Prepare a specific action plan. After you
have defined your vision and mission then it is time for implementation.
The first thing you have to do is, of course, get a job based on your vision.
Find the organization that can help you achieve your vision -- provide you
proper training and development, recognize your talents and give you
opportunities to move up. The search may be long and hard, but if you put your
heart and mind to it, you will find this organization. There are many articles
on job hunting, including those that I have written. Now is the time to apply
the insights you have gained from them.
Once aboard that organization, try to acquire a clear idea of how the company
works. What are its vision, goals, strategies and priorities? How aligned are
these with yours? Use this information to prepare your strategy for
accomplishing each step of your mission. These are now the specifics, the
detailed action plan.
To help you draw up that action plan, try answering these questions: How long
will it realistically take you to move from one level to the next higher one?
What are the things you have to accomplish? What preparatory training and
developmental steps must you take? Can the organization provide you these? If
it can, how can you avail yourself of them? If it cannot, can you obtain them
outside the company? How much will it cost you? What assistance will you need?
As I said earlier, this is just a very rough framework for career success. The
gaps and details will have to be filled by you.
Later in life, certain events may occur that will require you to revise your
plan, rethink your strategy, or adjust your timing. Some of them may be good --
an unexpected promotion, a significant transfer, even a better job offer. If
this happens, do not become complacent or overconfident. Always keep your feet
firmly planted on the ground.
Some may be bad and derail your plan -- an economic or industry slump, a shift
in the organization's priorities, a change in management. Don't despair. Adjust
your plan and timing, but keep your mind focused on your vision. The road to
success is not always straight and paved; there may be detours and rough trails
along the way. But with patience, perseverance and determination, no doubt you
will make it.
I have saved the best for last that you may remember it best: Always pray to
God for guidance and strength in all your endeavors. No matter how well you
plan and how hard you work, without His blessing, all will be in vain.
God bless and Godspeed!