Monday, June 3, 2013

The Commencement Speech I Wasn't Asked to Give

This actually isn't me--I found the picture here.
Hey, new graduates! Thank you for asking me to speak to you today and congratulations! You're wonderful! You're fabulous! You're the hope for the future and the remedy for the past! Blah-blah unicorns and leprechauns!

Okay, now that I have reassured you (and your parents) that you are particularly stellar specimens of humanity, let me take off my commencement speaker hat and talk to you as someone who from time to time hires people. Unless you have been especially astute in your choice of careers (hey, congratulations, computer systems analysts!) or plan to go into the family business (and congratulations to you, Donald Trump's children!), you are going to come face-to-face with me or someone like me in the near future. I am particularly good at hiring people (if I do say so myself) so I'm going to confess that there is only one thing I will be asking myself as I interview you, and I will ask it from the moment I first open your cover letter until I contact you to offer congratulations or condolences. That thing is this:

Will this person make my job harder or easier?

That's it. That's the whole basis I use to evaluate job candidates.

Do you have a spelling error in your resume? That will make my job harder, obviously. Did you use Comic Sans as your font of choice? Yes, professional ridicule tends to make my job harder. Are your tattoos or cleavage distracting my attention? If you're showing that much skin in the interview, I worry about how much you'll reveal after you're hired and my job is harder when I lose my train of thought because I'm trying to figure out how to tell you to cover those things up.

But when you tell me that you already know a computer program we use, that makes my job easier. When you say that you've noticed an improvement that can be made on our website, that also makes my job easier. When you show up on time, look me in the eye when we shake hands, know what your strengths are, and act like a grown-up, that makes my job easier.

Then if I hire you, remember that times are tough all over and no job has a lifetime guarantee any more so you want to make it difficult for me to let you go. Be a good employee and act like a grown-up. When you decide whether to show up late and leave early, does that make my job easier or harder? When you take three days on a project that we all know should take three hours, easier or harder? When you're unavailable to work the special weekend event even though you knew this was a requirement when you were hired, easier or harder? When you show up dressed like the end of a hard night...well, you know the question.

It's not that your boss is lazy, it's that she's busy--busy making her own boss's life easier instead of harder, so if she's having to deal with your special issues (Really? You think it's appropriate to bring your dog to work?) that brings you to the front of her mind when she's having to make the list for possible downsizing.

Unless you're the Trump children, and if that is the case, congratulations on your graduation!


  1. This is a vivid and memorable phrase-with-attached-concept. I can just SEE myself telling it in turn to each of my children.

  2. Amen to all of this. After experiencing a number of years with unexperienced and/or unprofession co-workers, my sole criteria has become will you make my job harder or easier? Do you continue to make my job harder or easier? If the answer is consistently harder, I really don't have time for you and hope only that you will soon be fired. It sounds really harsh, but my job is stressful without the added BS of someone who is unprofessional, not serious, or desperately unqualified. I have no doubt that if I stopped doing my job properly, my boss would fire me and she would be reasonable to do so.

  3. Sending this to my oldest son to read. He'll be needing this advice before too long.