Dear Graduates (and Undergrads, too):


Congratulations graduates! And congrats to you undergrads, too—you’re one step closer to your career!

At commencement last weekend, the esteemed Tom Brokaw gave excellent advice: “It’s a lot tougher now to make a buck, but making a difference has its own rich reward.”

Make a Difference

But how does one make a difference? You can begin today by contributing your time to any number of causes you care about, through mindful use of your resources, and through your interactions with those around you.

To make the greatest impact in terms of your career, there are many paths to choose from. You might choose professional positions where you can affect change. You might start your own business or non-profit organization to make a difference. Perhaps you’ll discover a cure. Or spread change through teaching. You might do important things through art or politics or books or movies or journalism, like Mr. Brokaw.

Maybe you’ve already chosen your path. Maybe not.

Create a Career that Makes a Difference

It doesn’t matter whether you have a grand career plan or have nary a clue what to do with your degree. Either way you’ll need four things:

  • Experience
  • Skills
  • Credibility
  • References

These help you garner job offers and give you options for making a difference.


Focus on Building Your Résumé

Above all, Brokaw told you, do not live for the things you can get, or the riches you can earn.

Seek out opportunities that will build your professional skills, your perspective, and your résumé. Especially in your early years, make choices based on the richness of experience over the riches of income. If you happen to be well paid for your efforts, great! But an unpaid or low-paying internship where you build relationships, exposure, and opportunity might build the richest foundation for your career.

What if you need to take a non-career job right now? Or choose to travel before beginning your career?

Even if you’re not yet on your career path, find ways to build your résumé. Here are just a few:

  • Gain connections and references. No matter what you’re doing today, cultivate relationships. Demonstrate your strength of character whether you’re working or playing, so those you meet might become future professional connections and those you work with will vouch for you as references.
  • Volunteer. There are volunteer travel programs as well as endless opportunities at home in which you can contribute to a cause while gaining skills and networking.
  • Write articles or a blog. This could be a travel blog that is well-written, thoughtful, and demonstrates your professionalism, even while you’re touring. Or you could write articles to submit to your industry newsletters in order to gain credibility. Refer to/link to them on your résumé.

Whether you plan to jump into your career or take your time finding it, take steps along the way to gain professional experience. Your experience, skills, credibility, and references will give you options and increase your ability to do important things, and will bring you rewards even richer than the salary you’ll earn.

Choose your experiences with your résumé in mind and you’ll be able to do what Tom Brokaw encouraged: “Go forth and make a difference.”

Got words of advice for students or recent grads? Or a story of advice that made an impact on you? We’d love to hear it—just leave a comment in the box below!

Like this blog post?  Check out Jennifer’s VIDEO BLOGS on Job Tips, the Job Search, and the Job Interview.

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Jennifer Shryock is a resume writer and interview coach with Rainmaker Resumes. Her blog features Missoula job hunting tips, covering everything from the employer perspective to networking ideas to interview-winning resumes to keeping your sense of humor, whether you’re working or working to find work. For answers, send your work related questions to Make her blog a regular part of your job search.