I want to hire you, Class of 2015. I want you to walk across the stage next year with a diploma in one hand and a job offer in the other. I want to change the fact that 50% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, while 4.5 million jobs remain open in our country.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hire people who have never failed. I can’t hire you until you learn how to fire yourself.
My pitch is simple: You want to stand out to employers next year? Fire yourself from college right now. I’m not asking you to drop out, I’m asking you to drop the collegiate mindset and adopt the one you’re going to need to get hired next year.
College has taught you not to fail. In the next two years, you are going to fail more than you ever have before. Embrace it. Own it. Fail harder. Fail faster. And learn to get over it.
This is what innovative companies want from you. In fact, failure is crucial to the basic model of prototyping. Get to a place where you’re 70% right, implement your idea, and learn from the data produced by your mistakes. Innovation requires failure.
My friend Jane Park, who has spent the last seven years revolutionizing the beauty business with her company Julep, told me that the biggest problems employers have with young graduates is that they’re working for the A grade.
Learn to work for a team, instead. It’s not about how you can grow, it’s about how you can help a company grow. Think about how you will show up next year.
Stop networking and start building relationships now. They will be everything to your career. Your job opportunities are not going to be about how good your grades are this year. They’re going to be about who you’re taking out for coffee tomorrow.
A recent study showed that 80% of graduating seniors expect that their future employers will train them at their new jobs, while in reality, less than 50% will receive any such training.
Be an owner of your own learning. Don’t know how to use Google Analytics? Teach yourself, or reach out to somebody who can teach you. You need experience, and if you’re in an environment where you’re not getting it, leave.
I speak to college seniors and young graduates almost every day in my job. When I ask them “What do you want?” unfailingly they cite a quest for purposeful work. Here’s what I always tell them: the CEO of Save the Children came from American Express. You can find purpose and meaning in profitable businesses. Don’t look solely at a company’s mission; look at their culture, look at the passion of the CEO, look at drive of the people who work there.
Meaning can come in a lot of ways, and before you save the world, you’re going to need the business skills to do it.
When I hire, I look for people who are their best selves, even when it’s hard. You can teach someone a skill, but you can’t change who a person is. If you can show me, or any employer, that you will bring your best self in every day, you will stand out in the interview and you will stand out in the company.
Change the statistic, Class of 2015. We’re all gunning for you, and we can’t wait to see you next year.
—Kristen Hamilton is an entrepreneur, globalist, and education innovation junkie who has made a career of starting companies from scratch. Her latest project is Koru, an innovative company that seeks to bridge the gap between college and career by providing bright, gritty, young college grads with the relevant skills, hands-on experience, and network needed to launch their careers at great companies.