Editorial: Don't be afraid of post-graduation failure

By The Beacon | April 17, 2014 12:42am

I am proud to present to you the Class of 2014, a group of students whose resourcefulness, brilliance and moral courage will surely lead them to change the world...

But that’s not really how it is, is it?

All that optimistic, world-changey graduation talk probably feels dishonest to a lot of graduating seniors.

Because many of this year’s graduating seniors will be moving back in with their parents. Pew Research found that in 2012, 45 percent of college graduates had moved back home. Perhaps UP students will be less likely than the average national college graduate, but no doubt many will be following the national trend.

Many more seniors have not yet secured a job or even a summer internship. After graduation they’ll find themselves in limbo in a job market where having a brand new college degree doesn’t guarantee employment. Maybe some will find restaurant jobs or retail jobs and wonder whether the four years of study were worth it.

We often hear stories of those graduating seniors who have gotten Fulbrights or jobs with prestigious businesses, who know their career paths and are well on their way to achieving their goals. But others, who know they’ll be sleeping in their childhood bedroom and hunting for a job after graduating, are probably tired of hearing those success stories because they know the uncertainty in store for them.

We should be honest with ourselves: Most of this year’s graduating class really will not be changing the world.

Not right now, that is. Not this summer, and maybe not this year or even next year. But that’s okay.

In a commencement speech more honest than most, Steve Jobs told Stanford’s graduating class of 2005 that his failures were the very events that led to his success at Apple. Jobs dropped out of college and got fired from his own company. But he cited his failures as the sources of his successes.

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” Jobs said.

In another commencement speech, J.K. Rowling told Harvard’s 2011 graduates she found herself in a position of failure and poverty after graduating college. But she, too, cited her rock-bottom failures as the source of her successes.

Sure, we may not have any Steve Jobses or J.K. Rowlings in this year’s graduating class, but we can learn an important lesson from them: Failure is what you make of it. Failure can lead to excellence if you let it.

Every job interview for every uninspiring job is preparation for a dream job interview. And every botched interview for a dream job? Preparation for a successful interview.

It might feel like failure to move back home, but think of it as a constructive experience. Nothing is better preparation for challenging living situations than trying to treat parents as housemates.

Each failure, each rejection, each infuriating obstacle is, viewed from another vantage point, not just a stepping stone to success but a necessary exercise in figuring out how to succeed.