It is commencement season, and readers may be looking for just the right gift: fountain pen, leather briefcase, trip to Paris? I'll take my advice from Emily Dickinson, who famously wrote that "There is no Frigate like a book. . . how frugal is the Chariot/That bears the Human Soul."
So, for the graduate in the reader's life, I suggest a book I just finished, "What You're Really Meant To Do: A Road Map For Reaching Your Unique Potential" by Robert Steven Kaplan, who teaches at Harvard Business School. He writes that he often counsels students on their career goals.
There are lots of nuggets of wisdom in the book. Here are three that struck me.
First, he writes, new graduates take jobs based on whether the people they meet are likeable, and whether the company environment is consistent with their values and aspirations. Some job-interview questions he recommends they ask are: What makes a great XYZ professional at this company? What distinguishes someone who is doing a good job from someone who’s doing a great job? What key tasks must I do well, and what related skills do I need to succeed here?
Second, if the new grad’s first performance review is peppered with useless barroom generalities, she should press the boss for greater explanation and details, as well as for advice on action items to improve her skills.
Third, “You need to make a leap of faith that, even though justice may not prevail at a given point in time, ultimately it will prevail. . . . even though you will experience injustice, if you are true to yourself and your convictions, eventually you will be treated fairly." He writes that failing to adhere to this mindset leads to becoming jaded and cynical, with the result being the unmooring of convictions and an obsession with pleasing others and meeting their expectations.
I would add this: Justice may not come in the expected or with hoped-for rewards, but it does come, even if it arrives in disguise. Enjoy the commencements in your life.