Dear new graduates,
A graduation is not only a happy occasion but also signals a turning point in the lives of those students who have proven their competence, skill and above all determination by successfully reaching the end of their prescribed curriculum. For some, it will be the prelude of further studies at postgraduate level whereas for others the time will have arrived to enter the ranks of those seeking suitable employment. To you all, my message is the same: well done! I believe I speak on behalf of everyone here when I state that we are so proud of you. Proud of what you have already achieved and expectant of what remains in store for you.
In fact, I would argue that at this juncture you are being called to face perhaps your greatest challenge yet: that of becoming fully yourselves.
In the words of Oscar Wilde:
“He who would lead the ideal life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man of science; or a young student at a University (such as you are); or a maker of dramas like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in the garden or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realizes the perfection of the soul that is within him.”
And that, my dear graduates, is anything but an easy task. In our time and age, we are well acquainted with the dangers provoked by those who will seek to find happiness and contentment by the naked pursuit of their ambition and their giving in to their selfish desires. The consequences brought on by such behaviours are disastrous – sometimes immediately, others after a while – and affect not only those who would wrongly yield to their allure but tragically the communities in which they live and operate as well. Corrupt politicians, dishonest media executives, business owners cooking the books and many others governed by greed have been at the forefront of the current financial crisis, aided no doubt by a system that was too lenient with their unacceptable behaviours and too slow to react to the perils that those behaviours entailed for our society.
It would be wrong of you to believe, my dear graduates, that those temptations are not going to touch you or that somehow you will be able to escape their siren song without a fight. As the German philosopher Hegel pointed out, the betterment of mankind is always a difficult process. If you’re led to believe this is an exaggeration, try to become a better person in the fullest sense of the word and you will see for yourself. Just like Bismarck, sometimes we are wrongly led to believe that we can have victory without war. The fact is: improvement always comes at a price; but most of the time, a price worth paying.
But what exactly is to become fully oneself? To the ancient Greeks, the answer was clear: to become the hero of your own life. Through tales and myths like those of Ulysses, Theseus, Ariadne or Helen, they sought to depict the dangers, the travails and the adventures that being true to our destiny always calls for. Centuries later, the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung spoke in the same vein of a process through which a person becomes her true self by bringing forward the innate conscious and unconscious elements of her personality, her life experiences, and the development of her psyche into a well-functioning whole. He called it individuation, and taught us that it would be a lifelong process full of challenges, surprises, highs and lows. This process of self-discovery, he asserted, was what we were here for and the true purpose of our lives.
In the XXI century and thanks to the impact of 2.0 technologies like the Internet and the Social Media we are living a revolution in the way we think of ourselves in the two parallel universes – the offline and the online – in which our lives take place. We are indeed living in the era of personal branding, in which each and every one of us – whether he is aware of the fact or not – is a brand and has brand-like attributes. I would like you to reflect on what this means for you as we look ahead together to your I hope certain promising future.
You are in all likelihood acquainted with the concept of the ‘digital footprint’, which means that every action we take in the online world – the sharing of contents, comments, reviews or interactions with our friends and peers – configures the image we project in the all important virtual world. Taken together with our pictures, profiles plus our physical presence these make up our personal brand. I am the brand ‘Oscar Del Santo’ just as much as you are the brand called ‘you’. You may be an unknown brand today or a famous brand tomorrow, but whatever your professional future holds in store for you, the one thing that will always remain with you is your brand.
In our fast-paced, increasingly globalized world, permanent positions are a thing of the past. I believe we can safely predict that most – if not all of you – will be serial monogamists when it comes to employment. (Some of you may even have to juggle with two or more jobs at a time). Companies can hardly predict what will be round the corner in 5 to 10 years, and we are all being required to constantly upgrade our skills, update our knowledge and remain fully plugged in. This is why it is urgent at this time that you take full responsibility for the construction and development of your brand and make sure it reflects on your unique set of values, skills and talents without in any way, shape or form renouncing to your uniqueness or your idiosyncrasy.
Some of you will be called to become the business leaders of tomorrow, and this is why I would like to end this letter by emphasizing the crucial importance of being guided by goodness at all times. Because as the great Italian poet Dante told us in his Divine Comedy, if Evil sometimes seems overpowering in the course of human affairs, Goodness is always round the corner, ready to extend her hand and assist us when we most need her. Make goodness and values the backbone of your brand, and you are already halfway there. I urge to remain firm of purpose, strong in faith, warm at heart, as you begin to write this new exciting chapter in the story of your lives.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is included in the ‘Top Social Media Influencers’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists @OscarDS. He is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’ and the co-author of ‘Marketing de Atraccion 2.0’.