Millennial Commencement Address

Dear Millennials,

Last Sunday the Boston Globe published the results of the Bentley Univeristy PreparedU study, and as you know, you didn’t come out looking so hot. According to the study, potential employers view millennials as lacking a strong work ethic, as not being dedicated to their employer, and in possession of weak communication skills. Your response to these findings is that you are simply misunderstood by the baby boom generation.

Because I interact with you on a daily basis, I found myself mulling over the results of this study as the workweek progressed.

And then the other night, while attending a social function for my business group, Business Networking International, I overheard a member of the group say:

The formula is still the same; you need to work at it-hard work, that’s what it takes.

And I was thinking, well, I sure didn’t work hard at my business this week because I had final papers to grade, tests to write and proctor, thesis texts to edit, and final presentations to attend. And then I decided to write down all the things I had done for my business this week, and came up with the following list:

  1. I had a networking meeting.
  2. Completed an on-line sale, shipped purchased work to Syracuse;
  3. dropped off work and a portfolio to an Interior Designer in Danvers;
  4. Picked up artwork from Mass. Art sale in Boston;
  5. Submitted commission estimate for wall relief sculpture for the CEO’s office at a medical supply company;
  6. Called framer about the cost to frame a particular print;
  7. Attended BNI networking event;
  8. Worked on clients commission;
  9. Photographed a property for a client two times;
  10. Contacted art consultants through Linked In;
  11. Worked on Maquettes for NYC dealer;
  12. Contacted library for permission to photograph the River Road painting to make a print as a gift for a Topsfield resident who is moving to San Diego;
  13. Mailed slides to photo center to be used for the print;
  14. Listened to eduacational podcast;

None of these tasks are terribly exciting; and most of the things on this list have little or nothing to do with talent, or how “lucky” I am to have so much of it; and no, I didn’t earn a final grade, pat on the back, or any other form of public recognition. But, you see, after 30 years of working at it, you get so used to working at it, that you no longer see yourself as working at it. Understand?

And so, as my business partner stated at our event: “the formula is still the same, you need to work at it-hard work, that’s what it takes”. Or, in the words from the quote my Depression era father once sent me in the mail:

Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.


Meg Black is a Professor of Art/Art Education at Endicott College, Beverly, MA and Owner at Meg Black Studios.