For Graduation give the gift of Confidence

Our guest columnist this month is Mannersmith's Winston Jenkins.

One of the many benefits of having a life filled with family and friends is relishing in each other's successes and milestones. One of the biggest successes is graduation. Whether the graduation is from high school, college or graduate school, the commencement ceremonies herald a formal change of status. Moving away from home to campus or from campus to career can be quite challenging in many ways - adjusting to the working world, living in a more independent fashion, and having to establish and expand one's personal and professional circles.

It is strange to think that no matter how much time and money has been spent on education, students find that there are many adjustments to be made. As a Mannersmith consultant, I often hear from professionals who would like to hire recent graduates from their alma maters. Over and over these professionals tell me that the graduates have the technical knowledge required for the job but not the social skills. The ability to work well with both colleagues and clients is essential for most positions. These same professionals reveal that their companies are willing to train new hires providing the new recruits are able to demonstrate some of the most basic of social skills. In addition, for this year's graduates, the job market is more competitive than ever due to the economy.

Luckily, there is hope on the horizon. What is more, you can help! As a friend or family member of the recent graduate, you may be challenged as to what to give to the happy graduate. You can tend towards tradition and give pens, portfolios and suits. These are wonderful gifts because they are both professional and practical. Or, you can challenge your creativity by giving something that will set the stage for their lives going forward: confidence.

Confidence is not something easily gift-wrapped. Here are some suggestions of how to give the gift of confidence to a recent graduate.

  • For graduates with whom you are close, treat them to an elegant meal. Whether out on the town or in your home, you can demonstrate good manners and gently coach the new graduate with proper dining skills.
  • For focused graduates in the same field as yours, you can boost their confidence by inviting them to join you for a professional event. From monthly meetings to breakfast trainings to conferences, attending a networking program is a wonderful way to introduce the graduate to the larger world. If the group is a good fit, a one-year membership also makes a great gift.
  • For relatives or friends who are further afield from the graduate, you can give them a one-year subscription to a professional publication related to their new job sector. Having regular access to publications such as Ad Weekly, Law Journal, or Business Week can assist them in learning professional practices in their field. Additionally, a book focused on professional protocol, business dress or networking is always a great addition to an adult's personal library.
  • And finally, for those hiring new graduates, you can provide ways to help them polish their professional image. Help to hand pick their first mentor. The mentor is someone in addition to you who meets regularly with the new graduate to review their progress, answer any questions they may have, and provide constructive feedback.
So for the 2009 graduates you know, revel in their celebration. Mark their momentous occasion with formalities and festivities. Aid in their continued success. Round out their educational experiences with a gift of confidence. As Lillian Gish once said, "You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners."