e-LeaderLounge: How Would You Address the Grad Class of 2015?

Grad season is upon us [cue Pomp and Circumstance].  Diplomas will soon be traded in for resumes and white papers, and classroom schedules will be traded in for the rigours of 9-5. We asked the leaders participating in our e-LeaderLounge™ how, if given the chance, they would address and inspire the graduates of this year’s 2015 class….

If you were going to address the 2015 graduating class at (insert university of choice) what would be the theme of your talk?

“Everything you do or don’t do, say or don’t say has an impact.  The impact that you will have in your career and life is too important to be a reflection, it has to be an intentional act of the will.  What is the mark you want to leave on this world? What do you want people to say about you long after you leave them? Make decisions and take actions based on the impact you want to have.  Not saying or doing anything can often have the same impact as what you do or say. You will have an impact, make sure it is the one you want!” – Sue Wigston, COO at Eagle’s Flight.

“I’ve narrowed it to two themes. 1) When challenges arise, and they will, always strive for an optimistic stance.  Your mental attitude itself will bring inner strength and self-confidence. You’ll surprise yourself with the challenges you are able to tackle when your attitude is solution-focused. 2) Manage your ego.  Nothing will bring a project (or an organization) to it’s knees like an unbridled ego.  Keep close watch and manage accordingly.  Saying that, sometimes you will need to put your ego to work for you in full force!” — Ryan Hanawalt, President at Domain 7.

“Push Away from Shore.  There are so many reasons for you to stay in your comfort zone.  Give yourself permission to leave your network and safety net, when a big opportunity presents itself. If you let it, life only progresses incrementally, in 5-10% improvements every year.  A new challenge can change the trajectory of your career, and likely your life, IF you pounce on it.

Ten years ago, I left the comfort of Toronto, to move to a bigger opportunity in the US.  Since then I’ve lived in Cincinnati, Boston, Shanghai, Seattle, and now Vancouver.  My career is on a completely different arc and my life is as fulfilling as I could have imagined, because someone encouraged me to push away from shore.   You will surprise yourself.  Commit to the decision, and then commit to making it work.  Then enjoy the ride.”  Joseph Thompson, VP Marketing and Communications at BuildDirect.

“Life (and work) is a balancing act. Think of the highest performing leaders you know — they maintain a sense of equilibrium between head and heart. A doctor who is both knowledgeable and compassionate trumps one who is skewed in either direction.  A lawyer who is all logic and no intuition will likely not succeed in any courtroom.  Leaders who can maintain control yet welcome collaboration will instill greater confidence and trust from their teams.  Leaders who produce results yet don’t stop to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of others, only ever win in the short-term.  Find your ‘chi’ and get your ‘balance’ on.” Peter Reek, Founder and President, Smart, Savvy + Associates.

“There is a reason they call it work! I’m a firm believer of having fun at work and some of my closest friends are people I have worked with, but you need to put in your time, roll up your sleeves, work hard long hours, and achieve some great results.” – Ashley Willard Bauman, Director Strategy and Marketing at UBC Properties Trust.

“Opportunities abound – if you understand that values are more important than perks.  All too often candidates cite personal perks (benefits, flexibility, work/life balance) as key reasons for wanting to join our organization instead of the tremendous value we deliver. I want to hire people aligned with our values and goals, not our perks. Take the time to ensure you learn about and believe in the company’s values and in their ‘why’ before you take the leap to join their team.  You’ll be richly rewarded beyond any external perks in self-fulfillment and career growth if you align yourself to a company that matches your own values.” – Kerri Buschel, Director of Marketing at WorkSafeBC.

“I taught an awesome group of students in the BCIT Marketing program last year. In my first lecture I told them “You’ll be more interesting than your peers/colleagues if you’re insatiably curious.” I hope they still are. Curiosity is at the heart of innovation and creativity.” – Dennis Kim, Managing Director at StoryDriven Inc.

“Be adaptable in your career.  Be open to trying different things and taking risks.” – Greg Oyhenart, SVP Corporate Development & Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Westminster Savings Credit Union.

“Focus on what you can do to make yourself invaluable.” – Jennifer Maloney, Director of Marketing at Rennie Marketing Systems.


And now for a few celebrities (from NPR’s recounting of the best commencement speeches ever) …

“Try putting your iPhones down every once in a while and look at people’s faces.” – Amy Poehler

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.” – Alan Alda

“There is, I would assert, an inherent benefit for all of us in choosing the more optimistic course.” – Jeffrey Sachs

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K Rowling