Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund, gave new University of Denver graduates a dose of reality at the spring undergraduate Commencement ceremony on June 7 at Magness Arena.
Childears said that because recently graduated recipients of Daniels Fund scholarships were having trouble finding jobs, the organization met with employers to find out their perceptions of recent college graduates as potential employees. She shared the results of those interviews with the departing DU students.
“Most of them said today’s college graduates have the technical skills they need, but not always the work skills,” she said. “We spent a lot of time with these employers, asking them to elaborate on their concerns so we could help prepare our scholars to be successful.”
Among her pieces of advice: Learn how to make a good first impression; make sure your resumé and cover letter are free of mistakes; send a handwritten thank-you note after a job interview; be careful what you post on social media, as employers often Google job candidates; and work on your handshake.
Childears said that knowing an industry inside and out isn’t as important as genuine interest and enthusiasm.
“Employers want to know that you are interested in their business. They do not expect you to know the business,” she said. “Many employers said, ‘Give me the person who has the right attitude and the interest, and I can train them on what they need to do.’”
At the end of the day, Childears said, it comes down to three questions for employers: Can this person do the job, does this person want the job, and can we get along with them?
“Based on all of that and on my own experiences, here’s my advice on how to make a good impression and a good start in that new career: Don’t get in your own way,” she said. “Determine what kind of person you want to be, and be that person all the time. Stand out in a good way. Be positive, tolerant and optimistic. The world we live in today is full of angry, critical and negative people. Being positive, tolerant and optimistic alone will make you stand out.”
Around 1,035 of DU’s 1,209 graduating undergraduates participated in Saturday’s ceremony, including Doug Mackenzie, who received his BS in electrical engineering.
“The most difficult piece of graduation is saying goodbye to friends; it’s not easy to watch as relationships you’ve built go so abruptly in different directions,” Mackenzie said. “At the same time, it’s an exciting moment in our lives. As Linda Childears noted, the transition is distinct, but we have the ability to decide the person we want to be, and be that person every day. I believe wholeheartedly in that statement.”
Prior to Childears’ address, the new graduates heard from undergraduate student government president and graduating senior Matt Schutte, who drew a comparison between the ease of Google maps and a life lived with a focus on arrivals and departures.
“Maybe there’s more to life than just moving from point A to point B,” Schutte said. “What about all the space in between? What stories do we miss when we focus only on leaving and arriving, and seldom taking the time to appreciate where we actually are?”
Schutte recalled his own journey between the start and end of his undergraduate career at DU: working late-night shifts at the Johnson-McFarlane Hall front desk; traveling abroad and revitalizing his enthusiasm for life; finding his calling as a sociologist.
“You wouldn’t know anything about these amazing experiences and people in the busy buzz of getting from point A to point B,” he said. “I’m more than that. You are more than that. We’re all more than that. I encourage you to look back on these four years and take the time to appreciate all the space in between matriculation and graduation.”