With commencement approaching across the country, Express Employment Professionals CEO Bob Funk shared his advice for high school graduates. Drawing on his 48 years of experience in the staffing business, Funk offers six practical tips for a successful career that graduates are not likely to hear from their commencement speakers.
“Wherever graduates head after high school, they need to understand the realities of the job market and the workplace quickly, or they’re in for a tough time,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express, and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “It took me decades to learn some of these things. If high school graduates learn these lessons now, they’ll have a head start on their careers.”
College isn’t the only path to a great career. Conventional wisdom says there is only one path to success and that it requires a four-year college degree. That’s not true for everyone. Outsmart the conventional wisdom, and explore all your options — including community college and career tech education. There are many in-demand professions in which you can out-earn the average bachelor’s degree recipient just by earning the right associate’s degree or specialized certification. Do your research, and know your choices. Consider reading our white paper, “Caution: College Might Not Be For Everyone.”
Have a plan. And a backup plan. You should have a plan to pursue the career you want. But it’s possible that your dream job won’t be hiring, whether you start working right after gradation or go to college first, so it helps to have a backup plan. We back up our phones and hard drives; we should have a back up for our careers. A good backup is learning a skilled trade—welding, accounting, IT or medical technology, for example. It’s always to your advantage to have marketable, in-demand skills in case the plan for your career changes unexpectedly.
Don’t meet expectations: exceed them! Whether you end up in your dream job or not, remember that someone will still be observing you. A strong work ethic and a good attitude will be rewarded with promotions, raises and good recommendations. Plan for success by putting in extra hours, taking on extra tasks unasked, and doing far more than the minimum required of you. Do that and you may find yourself landing your dream job in no time.
Know when your individualism is an asset and when it could hurt you. When your company succeeds, you succeed. While it’s right to value individuality, it’s important to remember that some industries and employers will prefer that you leave the piercings, tattoos and extreme hair and outfits at home or under long sleeves. How you present yourself shapes how you are viewed by your employer and by customers, both negatively and positively. Your appearance, whether it’s traditional or non-traditional, and your attitude should show and elicit respect.
Lose your fear of commitment. Plan to commit to your first job for more than one year. Your employers may spend six to nine months—and a great deal of money—training you. If they’re going to invest in you, you should invest in them. When interviewing for a job, let them know you will be committed and reliable. Likewise, commit to investing in your career. Stay focused on your goals, and pay attention to daily opportunities to sharpen your skills and advance. Without commitment, you’ll never get where you want to be.
Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. You will be judged by your résumé and cover letter—and by any errors contained within. Don’t trust your own eyes; it’s hard to see our own mistakes. Find a friend who is great at spelling or someone you respect professionally to review and critique your résumé before your job hunt. If the interview process boils down to three people with the same qualifications and your résumé is the only one with a typo, you’re making it easy for an interviewer to eliminate you.
“From all of us at Express Employment Professionals, congratulations on your accomplishments! I hope your future is bright, and if you make wise choices, I’m confident it will be,” Funk said.
About Robert A. Funk
Robert A. “Bob” Funk is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the international staffing company has more than 675 franchises in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Under his leadership, Express has put more than five million people to work worldwide. Funk served as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and was also the Chairman of the Conference of Chairmen of the Federal Reserve.
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