'Tis the season of commencement addresses and, as Tyler Bonin points out in this morning's Wall Street Journal, most will have a cliched message–grads will be urged to "follow your passion," or "Don't be afraid to take risks."
Bonin has other advice for grads: start mopping.
When I was a student at Duke, I worked in a retail store. Many of my co-workers were also college students, some in graduate school, and one was on her way to dental school. Many of my colleagues hated mopping, which required going into the haven of filth that was the public bathroom. I had plenty of practice in this area as a former Marine Corps private, so I always volunteered for the job.
My managers noticed. They named me employee of the month and promoted me to management for the holiday rush—a small success at a small store. I learned that a sense of entitlement is a burden. People who believe themselves above something, or entitled to something more because of past achievements, will find that new opportunities slip away.
. . .
Certainly there is a time to be bold, but there is also a time for humility. A task once considered beneath you could actually be the key to your success. Do the job nobody wants, because, believe it or not, somebody appreciates it. Volunteer to learn and to provide value to others. Find a dream job by first doing the rote tasks in that field, without complaint. Pick up a mop.
Bonin tells the story of a successful consultant who started a post-college career by putting together tedious part-time jobs.