On May 11, 2018, Oprah Winfrey gave an impassioned commencement speech at the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Oprah’s speech was full of common sense advice, including, vote, eat a good breakfast, pay your bills on time, recycle, make your bed, aim high, say “thank you” and ask for help.
Oprah Winfrey also emphasized the need for grads to work hard in their first jobs, no matter how unglamorous their post-graduate employment situation might be.
“Your job is not always going to fulfill you,” Winfrey told the crowd of students, parents and loved ones. “There will be some days that you just might be bored, other days you might not feel like going to work at all — go anyway.”
The desire for fulfilling work is a defining characteristic of Millennials and Generation Z. Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte — which has a nearly 62 percent millennial workforce — recently told CNBC, “They’re all looking for purpose-driven, civic-minded, socially responsible companies.”
Despite this trend, Winfrey insisted that young people should not be discouraged from working a job that isn’t perfect in every way. “Your job is not who you are, it’s just what you’re doing on the way to who you will become.”
This lesson may even provide some relief to young people and recent graduates who feel the collective cultural pressure to be working a job that meets all of their aspirations, when in fact, most people do not graduate from college and immediately start their dream job.
For those young people who have a job, if not their dream job, Winfrey’s advice was to learn, make the most of it and demonstrate undeniable talent.
“Every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons because the lessons are always there,” she said. “And the number one lesson I can offer you where your work is concerned is this: Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.”