Text of Patty Briguglio's Commencement Speech

  WJU News
  Saturday, May 6, 2017 1:17 PM
  WJU News, Academics

Wheeling, WV

This is the text of the speech offered by Patty Briguglio, the 2017 commencement speaker at Wheeling Jesuit University. © 2017 Patty Bruguglio.

Today is one of the most important days in your life, second only to getting married and having children. Let's take a moment to acknowledge this event as the culmination of decades of hard work. 

Congratulations, you've done a great job. You've earned this. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of such a special occasion in your life. I am deeply honored to help you celebrate this achievement. 

Most commencement speakers spend their time talking to you about your future … blah blah blah … life's a journey…follow your dreams … yadda, yadda, yadda.

Forget that. I am going to give you some advice you can really use. I am going to share with you some life lessons that I wish I had known when I was your age. A warning here - I tend to be rather blunt, so I hope you will not take offense when I don't sugar coat any of this.

First, I think Millennials are much smarter and savvier than us Baby Boomers. There, I said it. Do you hear that sound? That's AARP tearing up my membership card for betraying millions of Boomers. But it is true, you're quick to embrace what is new, you rewrite the rules, you care about more than just a paycheck.

BUT, there are still some lessons you haven't learned yet, which can help you to go farther in your career. 

If you heed my advice, you're going to be ahead of the curve. Here are some life lessons for you.

Life Lesson #11 - Embrace lifelong learning. 
The days of going to college, getting a degree, and then going straight to work in a high-paying job are over. Stick a fork in it, it's done.

You will have 4 to 5 career changes throughout your life, and each new job will require new training. Technology and globalization dictates that we continue to learn. 

When the deep recession hit in 2008 many jobs simply disappeared and were never replaced. Instead new jobs were created and the high-paying ones required very specific skill sets.

Ten years ago - had you ever heard of a social media specialist, android developer, big data architect, digital marketing specialist, cloud services developer or Zumba instructor. They didn't exist. 

Ten years from now, new jobs will take the place of those I mentioned. You will be applying for jobs that haven't even been invented yet.

Think about that for a moment. Some day, in your future, you're going to have a job that doesn't even exist yet. 

Life lesson #10 - Identify the Boss you can grow under. 
Your boss is not your friend and is not there to motivate and to develop you. You are responsible for motivating yourself and developing your skills. A great boss will help with that, but it really isn't their job. 

Their job is to manage you and your work. That is what you are being paid for. 

So finding a great boss who is willing to help you grow is a bonus. And when you find that supervisor; learn, learn, and learn. Growth is not always about developing new skills, it can also mean that you are sharpening those you already have … to make you an expert in that area. 

You can build on that to present and share your skills with others as a way to prepare for management and help develop your soft skills.

A great boss will take the time to nurture and develop you. They will find out what your potential is and work to bring that out. The best bosses serve as coaches who are interested in your growth, identifying your capabilities, and working with you to develop your abilities. 

They will take the time to understand what makes you tick. They will identify your strengths and weaknesses, working to bring out the best in you.

It is easy to identify a great boss. 


It is even easier now with social media to interact with others that have worked for that supervisor, and learn what kind of boss they might be. Ask those that currently work for him/her on how they prefer to work. Ask former employees what they learned and what they think. Keep asking; that great boss is out there waiting for you.

Life Lesson #9 - If it's not illegal, immoral, causes cancer or fattening - Do it. 
If you can do something for someone without it killing you - do it. 

Do it without expecting anything in return. You have no idea all the good that comes to you if you help others, when you can, without expecting anything from it.

Like Lesson #8 - Be nice. 
Before I started my company, I worked in corporate America in probably the most dysfunctional organization in the whole world. 

I hated my job.
I hated my boss. 
I hated most of the people I worked with. 
People would knife each other in the back and then ask why you were bleeding. 

The company culture consisted of backstabbing, fear, anger, and suspicion. I took one good thing away from that experience. I wanted to work with people that I liked. I wanted to wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work. 

I was determined to create that work environment. So at my company, the number one thing to work there was - you had to be nice. All things being equal, people want to work with someone who is nice. You and your co-workers are all on the same team. You can be each other's greatest allies, and that will help you to get farther in your career. 

At some point, a catastrophe will erupt at work and you will find yourself underwater. Trust me, it will happen to you. It is at that time you will want someone to help you with a project, dig you out of a hole, or help you fix a mistake. You are more likely to get that help if you have been nice.

And by the way - treat everyone the same. It says everything about who you are. 

If you are nice to your boss but nasty to the waitress - you are not a nice person.

Be a nice person.

Life Lesson #7 - Ground your helicopter parents. 
Baby Boomers have not always done a great job of raising self-reliant young adults. As Boomers, we were raised in such a way that we were anxious to move out of our parent's home and prove we could stand on our own. Yet our generation turned around and raised Millennials to depend on us. 

My parents really didn't care if I liked them. And they were certainly not my friend. My father always said, "Your Mother is in charge of love - and I'm in charge of reality.” 

If your parents fight your battles, find you jobs, pay for your vacations, and solve all your problems, you will struggle in the workplace. 

Trust me on this, your employer does not want to meet your parents. They don't want your parents to call and ask for a raise for you or a corner office. You need to figure it out for yourself, learn to take responsibility and reap the consequences. Learn to stand on your own two feet.

If you are a parent and you are guilty of this - stop it. You aren't doing your child any favors.

Life Lesson #6 - Learn to talk on the phone. 
For a generation that is so tied to your phones, how come you treat answering the thing as tantamount to marriage proposal? Some of you even sleep with your phones. 

The art of talking on the phone has been lost on your generation. No matter where you work, you're going to be expected to talk on the phone. When you start your job, your employer will place this big black box on your desk; it will ring; and you will be expected to answer it and talk. I have been told that you don't like the feeling of the lack of control in a real live conversation, as opposed to that which you have with texting. 

Some say that you consider it an interruption, as if a text or tweet isn't an interruption. Talking on the phone is how business is conducted day in and day out around the world. 

You must learn to talk on the phone. Period. 

You can do this; it will just take some practice. It is a timeless skill that will be invaluable in your career. Start learning it now.

Life Lesson #5. Beware of Social media. 
You all are not tech savvy - you are tech dependent. 

Knowing how to use technology is not that same as knowing how it works. None of you have ever known a world without the Internet or smart phones. 

It defines your generation.

I am thankful that I was not raised in a time of social media and camera phones. Believe me - I did much of what you have done, but for me it is simply a fading memory, while your mistakes are documented forever on social media - and usually by your own hand. 

Realize that every tweet is going to follow you for the rest of your life. The problem is that you simply don't have the judgment or experience at 22 that you have at 32 or 42. What seems funny and cool at 22 will often make you cringe at 32. 

That Instagram photo of you drinking with underpants on your head might not delight your future employer. And not only could it cost you a job, but a coveted appointment to a board, or even a political career.

I know you're not thinking that far ahead, but one day, you will wish you had.

You live in two worlds - the real world and the virtual world. Don't confuse them. 

Real relationships consist of real people. The virtual world is false. Social media does not foster real relationships, but it feels like you are socializing, it feels like you are interacting. 

Social media is a tool that can help you to reach people, but often times it is used as a crutch, a replacement for human contact, and it then becomes a tool that actually isolates you.

Assume nothing is private. Anything you post is fair game and can be tracked back to you somehow. What we do in the heat of the moment can have lifelong, enormous consequences. 

One 30-second viral video cost United Airlines $570 million dollars over the course of a week because someone didn't realize the far-reaching effects of social media.

The simplest solution is to use your good judgement. If you don't want your Grandpa to see it, don't post it. If you don't want it shared with 300 million people, don't video it.

It is really that simple.

Life lesson #4 - Tattoos, piercings and nose rings are a permanent business decision. 
If you choose to adorn your body with tattoos, piercings, or those huge ring things in your earlobes called gauges - be prepared to be judged for that. 

If you walk into an interview and I am more absorbed with looking at your tattoo or piercing, then realize that I am not going to be listening to you. It speaks to your decision-making skills.

All things being equal, your skills, the salary you want, your bubbly personality - chances are you will not get a job because of that tattoo. 

It is against the law to deny you the job because of your piercing, but believe me, it happens. 

You just can't prove it. 

The reality is, your employer might not be able to put you in front of a client if you have visible tattoos, a nose ring or something metal coming out of your lip or eye brow. Do you want the client wondering who Mona is because you have a giant tattoo of her name crawling up your neck or imagining how much it would hurt if that nose piercing got caught on something?

I am not saying tattoos and other body modifications are wrong, but rather, you need to recognize that having a political symbol tattooed on your wrist means you are making a business decision and you may not be hired because of it. Maybe this employer is expanding into the Asian market and they don't know if that cute symbol might cause a scandal. 

Or maybe the next best candidate doesn't have any visible tattoos that might cause an international incident. 

Guess what, you just lost the job. 

Think of it is a business decision that may limit your career choices. If I can't be an inspiration, let me be a horrible warning. 

Take it from me - my arms look like I am a flying squirrel and I can't imagine how bad it would look with Mom tattooed on it. That cute dolphin may end up looking like a whale when you get a gut.

Life lesson #3 - Find Your Purpose. 
It is heartening that so many of you want your work to be for the greater good. You want to change the world and make it a better place. 

All lofty and great goals. 

Actually, I believe you will. You have such optimism, passion, enthusiasm, and drive. 

Strive to find something important in your work. 

If you get up in the morning excited to go to your job, you will do great work. If you believe in the mission of the organization, you will be a happier and a better employee. 

Life lesson #2 - Solve the problem. 
No matter what your job title is, you are first and foremost a problem-solver. 

If you are a waiter, then you are solving someone's hunger problem. If you are a realtor, you are solving a problem by buying or selling a home for someone. 

Many of you have had parents that have swooped in and helped you when you faced a problem - so you are not as well equipped as some to solve problems. 

At work, you go to your boss for an answer, because that's their job, right? Your boss is going to get really tired of having to solve your problems if you don't at least put some effort into tackling them yourself. 

Solving problems is at the core of what you do at work every day. Let me say that again --- Solving problems is at the core of what you do at work every day. 

Being known as problem solver will absolutely advance your career. 

Define the problem, 
list possible solutions, 
evaluate each one, 
and pick the best candidate.
Then implement it. 

Your boss is going to be much more impressed if you come to her with a problem, list the possible solutions, recommend one, and then ask for feedback before you act.

Life lesson #1 - Do what you say you are going to do. 
It seems so simple; just do what you say you will do. 

The reality is that you are what you do, not what you say you'll do. 

If you want to be successful in business and in life, you must be impeccable with your word, no matter how small or inconsequential you may think it is. 

It is even more important as a Millennial, because you are young and constantly being judged; it is critical to do what you say you are going to do.

It may seem like a small thing to you at the moment when you tell someone that you will send that document by the end of the day. Then you don't send it. 
I will check into that and get back to you. Then you don't. 
I will email you some dates for us to get together. Then you don't. 
I'll shoot you that link by tomorrow. Then you don't.

You think that it is just a simple casual lapse. No big deal. After all, you are concentrating on the big priorities. You can't do everything if you want to get anything done. You just blow it off. That is how you justify your behavior.

Next thing you know - you have a reputation for not keeping your commitments. 

All you have is your word. 

Eventually you will not be considered trustworthy or credible - by your peers, your supervisor, or your customers. If you do what you say you will do, people may not like you - but they sure will respect you and recognize that you are competent, reliable and trustworthy. That's the guy I want to work with.

Under promise and over deliver. You will never go wrong with that philosophy.

I want to leave you with a message from those of us, the Baby Boomers, who are turning over this world to you Millennials. 

You have been told you will rule the world and someday you will. That day is not today, but I promise you it will come. 

Unfortunately, older generations are still in charge, we are the stewards until we hand the reins over to you. 

You will be much better equipped for success if you learn to navigate the world as it is today … until your time comes and you can change all these silly rules about tattoos and answering the phone. 

But do know this, we are proud to you. We have faith in you. You do inspire us. 

We see great things for your future and we are hopeful that you can correct many of the mistakes we made. Please don't judge us too harshly.

So go forth into the world and make your mark. You're ready and all of us are here to cheer you on!

Thank you

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