Note to New Grads: Work Hard, Not Constantly

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered tips for new college graduates on their first job and beyond, as he gave a commencement address at the City
University of New York’s College of Staten Island.

Several Wall Street Journal blogs examine Bloomberg’s speech (click
here and here), and the full speech is available via YouTube.

Some have focused on Bloomberg’s mention of the importance of face-time at the office.

"If you’re the first one in the morning and the last one to leave at
night and you take fewer vacation days and never take a sick day, you
will do better than the people who don’t do that. It is very simple,”
Bloomberg told the new graduates.

Was Bloomberg urging them to become workaholics–or was he after something more?

More Than Just Face-Time

After watching the speech, I think Bloomberg was trying to drive home a message much more dynamic than the importance of face-time at the office. He underscored several key themes: work hard, think about others and learn to work with them, take risks, be curious, and give back.

He also mentioned lifelong learning, saying he decided to learn Spanish at age 60, and while it was difficult, he was determined to keep learning.

At the end of the day, he said, it’s about being happy with who you are:

"You’ll find that the more you give, the more you get. It is one of the great experiences that you will have is when you can go home at night and turn off the light and just before you do, look in the mirror and like what you see. And perhaps that’s the most important thing."

The message I gathered from Bloomberg is: dive into life, and give it all you’ve got, no matter how old you are or what you’re doing–raising a family, striving to be CEO (the face-time point becomes relevant), learning a foreign language.

If I were to provide tips for new college graduates on their first job and beyond, I would say this: Success is without a doubt rooted in hard work. You should work hard at everything–healthy relationships with friends, family, co-workers and mentors; being on a constant quest to learn new things; going outside your comfort zone; and thinking about more than just yourself. As you wend your way through life, you figure out your own special recipe for success and happiness. If one of the ingredients is heavy on face-time at the office, that’s fine; if face-time isn’t part of the mix, that’s OK, too.

As a full-time freelance journalist, face-time doesn’t really exist for me. My work is about phone-time with sources, and computer-time as I research and write. Yet I’m working harder and smarter than ever, I’m more productive, and I’m more challenged and rewarded by what I do each day.

More from Bloomberg’s CUNY Speech

Here are some excerpts from Bloomberg’s May 31 speech:

If I can give you some advice, it is change a couple words in your vocabulary, get rid of the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ and replace them with ‘we’ and ‘us.’ Because you’ll find that there’s no job you will ever have that you do by yourself. And if you give credit to others then they will give credit to you, they will work with you a lot better and you will be much more successful. So it’s hard work, it’s taking risks, you have to go out there and try. …

Success, incidentally, does not mean success in business, that’s just one way of measuring it. Just because you have more money than the other guy doesn’t make you any better a person or make you any more successful. It doesn’t mean in government being elected to a higher office than the other person, that’s not the only measure of success.

You could go home and raise a family and be the most successful person in the world if you really make a difference. If you set your heart out to do something, focus on that and take the challenges.