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01/04/2011 One Word: Plastics

That was my favorite line from the old Dustin Hoffman movie “The Graduate.” In college, my friends and I used that line to joke with each other when we discussed future plans. In the movie, a family friend gives that career advice to Hoffman’s newly college-graduated character: Plastics. That’s the field he should get into as fast as possible.


I can’t say I had the same experience but I did have one that turned out somewhat similar. During my freshman year at Dartmouth we newbies chaperoned alumni to dinner and an event for an evening. In the group I was in we had the pleasure of hanging out with Bill Seidman, who used to be Gerald Ford’s top economic advisor. Rather than talking about a future in finance, Seidman had another word for us: Communications.

“Get into communications,” he said. “That’s what all of my kids did and they’re having a hell of a lot more fun than I did.”

[On a weird side note, the alumni I chaperoned turned out to be the father of two of my Dad’s students at UVM!] 

I had no intention of following Bill Seidman’s advice. But that’s where I ended up, having spent almost 25 years in the communication business. And it has been a lot of fun (although not always or only fun).

It also made me wonder: What word would I suggest to college students or recent graduates? The absurdity of a one-word answer to the ridiculously complex question of “what will you do in your life” is what made “The Graduate” so enjoyable. Is it possible? If so, what would it be? 



SocialMarketing? (So I cheated)

Actually, I think the one word advice I’d give is “Experiment.” It’s not a career, per se, though you can make a career of experimenting in many fields. In fact the challenge with all careers and businesses these days is that success depends on the ability to experiment. We talk about hybrids or T-shaped people as those most adaptable to change and the future. But those people became that way because they enjoyed trying and learning new things. Those new experiences made them smarter, broader and more adept.

That’s my “Graduate” one word. What’s yours?


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