New Grads, the World Needs Your Energy

Meredith Tseu
Meredith Tseu

Meredith Tseu has worked as a career coach at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Harbor East campus. She also has a private career-coaching practice, MLT Career Services, based in Ellicott City. When she isn’t binge-watching TED talks, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

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Some of you are approaching graduation, and you may be wondering what you have to offer the workplace. As a career coach, that’s the most common question I’m asked.

Now, I’m no expert in investment banking or marketing, but as a Gen-“X”er who has been in the workforce for a few decades, the answer is obvious: You have energy.

So what? I mean, doesn’t everyone? The simple answer is no. Many of us are faking it. We’re tired and we self-medicate with Starbucks. We have mortgages and kids and 15 emails a day from our kids’ school. I just want to lay down for a minute, but you? I’ve seen you out there. You probably text more in one day than I’ll text all year. I talked to one Carey student recently who got a job lead from her Uber driver after a 10-minute ride. An Uber driver!

Energy is a prerequisite for innovation. We’ve got a lot of problems in our world, and some of us get discouraged. If you’re a woman who has been bumping into the glass ceiling for a decade, you’re getting tired. If you’ve been trying to get people to pay attention to climate change for years, you’re getting jaded. This world needs your energy.

You’re leaving Carey with a mandate to keep humanity in mind. Live that motto and pour your energy into it, because energy fuels hope. Imagining a different world takes individuals who are ready to work hard. Otherwise it’s just daydreaming. Not to knock daydreaming, but the dreams must be shared. They have to be translated into plans, and action steps, then implemented.

If you’re just finishing finals, then this whole pep talk on energy may bring up an awkward point. Energy? “I have no energy,” you might be thinking. Which brings me to my last bit of advice. Always take time to recharge. Make a habit of looking for the inspiration around you.

I’m always finding inspiration in unlikely places, and when I do, it’s like finding a candy bar in my couch. Life is full of these little pockets of energy stashed away in unlikely places.

I was driving home from the mall one Saturday, and I got stuck behind a truck picking up cones that were laid out for freshly painted yellow lines. I groaned inwardly. This would take forever. I’d crawl along and be late for my thing, and that would make me late for my other thing.

Except it didn’t, because the two men on the back of the truck were amazing at their jobs. The truck cruised at a solid 25 miles per hour, and one man leaned down, snatched a cone, and tossed it in an arc over his head to his partner. The partner caught the cone and placed it on the growing stack in the truck. They moved along like this for 20 minutes, and they didn’t miss one cone. It was dazzling.

We came to a light and I rolled down my window. “That was pretty cool,” I said.

“Oh, we’ve been doing it a while,” demurred the cone grabber, then tipped his baseball cap. And off they went to the next cone-littered road. I told everyone about those guys at the event later that day, and now I’m telling you. That kind of sustained energy, combined with skill, is impressive. It goes viral. We get so caught up in job titles, about getting the right job out of school, about career trajectories, but sometimes it’s not what you do but how you do it.

So extol your virtues in your cover letters and resumes, talk about those design, coding, and language skills in the interviews, but most important, show us your energy. Show us your version of the cones, something you do so well that you take it for granted. Bonus points if you collaborate with others as you do it. Practice your skills with energy, and it will dazzle the rest of us… after we just take a little nap.

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