Durham County

Career advice to graduates — Baumgartner Vaughan

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

It’s college graduation season, and with it go commencement exercises, speeches, gifts and advice for graduates as they set out on the rest of their lives. They’ve already been living life, though. Lessons learned in college — from the classroom to the dorm room — stay with you. Not all of them, but moments here and there. It’s more about the experience of going through something yourself and coming out the other side with a new perspective.

Those whose education and expenses were funded by their parents are off to make their own money. Some paid their own way, struggling, succeeding or failing along the way. Some graduating seniors are getting degrees they will never use at all. That’s OK, really it is. Life is, we hope, long and interesting, and there will be changes along the way. So if you decide that degree isn’t going to get you where you want to go, put the work in to get to that new place. Be sure you have a degree in hand first, though, because that’s an important ticket to have punched.

Some graduates’ lives will look completely different 20 years from now, with new hopes, new goals, new dreams to pursue. Two people I’ve interviewed this spring gave advice on reaching goals, and I think it bears repeating.

Eddie George won the Heisman Trophy in 1995 and went on to a career in the NFL. Then he went back to get a graduate degree and became a businessman and actor. His Broadway debut was in the musical “Chicago,” and he’s starring in the tour that will be at the Durham Performing Arts Center next weekend. What he learned during his football career was to trust the process.

“Just when you think you’re spinning wheels, think about how it’s building your character and endurance. That can be business, football or theater,” George said. “Trust the process and persist without exception.”

The process for George is about putting your time in and seeing things to fruition. And also to trust that opportunities will come.

Note that George didn’t say wait around for opportunities and assume they’ll show up. He said to put your time in. For students graduating college, you put your time in and are getting that ticket punch.

But it’s more than that, too, as N.C. Central University instructor 9th Wonder said about students taking his “Hip-Hop in Deep Concentration” class this semester. They learned about the hip-hop industry but also put their time in, and the work in to create their own independent record label.

“Don’t just do it for a grade, do it for something that’s deeper than that, something that can be beneficial to you. That kind of go-getter mentality can be placed and integrated anywhere,” 9th Wonder said, in any professional field.

So, graduates of this month or a decade ago, go out and work toward what you want to accomplish —whether your diploma is the field you work choose or the field you left behind for something new. As George advised, trust the process and persist.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan