The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 24, 2013

It's a long road ahead for the graduates

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — Summer is near and that means hundreds of area teens are preparing for likely what will be the biggest move in their young lives.

Clinton, Camanche and Fulton, Ill., will hold graduation ceremonies this weekend, meaning high school seniors will leave the confines of a school district that many have called home for 13 years, and will make decisions that could impact the rest of their lives.

OK, that seems a bit dramatic, but the decisions made in the next few months for these 18-year-olds can either help or hinder future opportunities.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated from high school (nine to be exact, where has the time gone?), and I had already decided my career by that time — journalism. I worked for my town’s newspaper during high school and I made the choice when I left high school that I would major in journalism.

Four years later, I graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a Journalism degree. My decision at 18 years old obviously had a direct influence on my day-to-day life.

In the years since I made that decision as a high school senior, I’ve picked up some pointers from people far wiser than I, and here are a few suggestions for 2013 graduates.

Have a goal

This seems really easy, but during a loaded semester at college or in a difficult position at work, long-term goals appear a long way away. When going to college, it’s easy to think about walking across the stage and receiving a diploma.

But at 18, four years seems like an eternity. Achieving that final goal is difficult, and by focusing only on that one item, can be daunting.

One aspect that has helped me through my time as a college student and in the work world, has been setting small goals along the way. Sure, my end goal was receiving a diploma, but in the mean time, I set individual milestones to help me get through each year, week and day.

Listen up

I know this is earth-shattering news, but sometimes when we’re young, we don’t always listen to adults. I didn’t listen to adults because I knew how the world worked better than they did, even though they had life experiences that likely tripled to quadrupled the amount of experience that I had.

I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. I was different than 99 percent of other people.

I quickly realized I was wrong.

You will make mistakes. I still make mistakes. Learning from others will help reduce the amount of mistakes made on a daily basis. Parents and grandparents have been through a lot, and are good sources of information.

My parents and grandparents taught me a lot about what to expect and how to deal with adversity. Luckily, I learned to listen early on in my educational endeavors and I learned a lot about what not to do by watching other people make mistakes.

Be versatile

This is one of the most important parts of living in a technological world.

Gone are the days of having only one or two responsibilities at work. Employers are looking for a multi-faceted employee who can do many tasks. And the more you can do, the more marketable you are for prospective jobs.

I’ve always been a big believer in learning as many tasks possible at every job. Before I got my degree, I worked internships and part-time jobs over the summer that included newspapers, magazines and a television station.

When I went to school, I immersed myself in all facets of the media industry, including online, newspaper, television and radio. Knowing a little about everything in whatever job you do, whether it’s in the banking industry or education or plumbing, helps make bosses think twice before going another direction with your position.

And with the way the world works now, technology is always changing. Learning about new technologies and staying current with an ever-evolving world is imperative to make sure you’re relevant in the business world.

Congratulations to the 2013 graduates. With most of your formal education training behind you, I do have one key piece of information that is guaranteed to be in your future: Although you may not sit in another school desk again, the amount of learning you have to do will never stop.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.