I gave a commencement speech to a group of graduating broadcast media students on Thursday evening. I was asked, I think logically, because I am somebody who currently has a job in the field. Unfortunately for the graduating students, their families, the staff and all in attendance, I blew the speech. I failed at my assigned job, big time!
Ironic, because the message I wanted to deliver was about the benefits of failing and taking risks.
I am the Senior Web Producer for myFOXdetroit.com. In 2001, I enrolled at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts in an effort to make a career change. Up until then, I am sure my life seemed grand from the outside. I had a successful career in sales, was married to a pretty blonde and had a house in a toney suburb. Inside I was miserable, and so I decided to make a change.
The old cliche, "if you don't love yourself it's hard to love somebody else" applied to me. My then wife deserved better. We were divorced in the spring of '01. With no kids from our marriage, there was no longer anyone depending on me. It afforded me the opportunity to be introspective and take a look at life itself. I got to ask the question "what makes me happy?" The answer it seemed always boiled down to "performing and writing." So I enrolled at Specs.
Once in school, I knew that a path of journalism and news was for me. I eliminated all my debts, sold all that I had and prepared for an entry level life of eating Ramen noodles and paying rent.
The risk I took was giving up a monetarily successful sales career to go after a more fulfilling career in news. The risk paid off for me as I went from being an unpaid intern at Fox 2, to a paid assignment editor, then writer, then broadcast producer to senior web producer. I love what I do and I look forward to the next mission. I see several paths in front of me.
It's no coincidence that during this time of "doing what I love" I met the love of my life. My wife Carolyn also took some risks and changed her career as an adult . Now the two of us are happily raising our two children and doing our best to encourage them to try new things.
So back to what got me writing this article in the first place. The success that I have had in my career at Fox 2 earned me an invitation to speak to a new class of graduating students at Specs Howard. Simple symbolism: "Dennis got the job and you can too, here's how."
I wanted to tell them about the rewards of taking risks; that failure is the necessary stepping stone to finding success. I did cite examples like Thomas Edison, that fact that the invention of the light bulb came after 1,000 failed attempts. I mentioned how baseball greats Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth are both known for their prodigious home run hitting and not for the fact they are number one and two on the list of all-time strike out leaders.
Somewhere during the speech, however, I lost my way. I never concretely made the point that throughout life and career you have to take chances. You have to fail. In fact you will fail at something. It's a given. But what do you learn from that failure? How do you get back up? On what path does failing place you?
I practice yoga and often the instructor will say, "if you don't fall once in a while, you're not trying hard enough." The only reason I can do a "crane" today is because I fell 10-times trying to do a "crane" in the first place.
In this economy a lot of us will get laid off. What do you do? My advice: Take a risk, go to school, get trained and try something else. Fail, but learn. Keep moving. The path to a new career comes from this process.
If you're a new grad, volunteer at every opportunity to do something new at your job. Sometimes you'll fail, sometimes you won't... but put yourself out there. Find out what you can do and what you cannot do. To get a job, take the risk of investing your time by volunteering, interning, working for free all to get your foot in the door for a new career. Again, you'll find out what you like, what you're good at, what you suck at and do some valuable networking at the same time.
You want to get into broadcast journalism or the film industry, be willing to be an intern, production assistant, grip, coffee boy, whatever... to get your fat foot in the door. Once in, volunteer at every opportunity to do anything you can to show what can do. Same lession, different field.
I failed at delivering the kind of commencement speech I was capable of delivering, but my failure has given me an idea for a new Job Shop resource: TELL US WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED
To all employers, managers and people who feel they are successful in their career; tell us what it takes to get into your industry and succeed.
Click on this link and fill out the form provided. We'll post the information on the Job Shop pages of this web site, myFOXdetroit.com. Help us to continue to build a valuable resource to help people find work. Some of your input will also be used on the air during a Fox 2 newscast with Murray Feldman.
It's the mission of the Job Shop to help people find a job, one person at a time.
For me, I continue to learn from my mistakes and failures because I recognize the value in having them. At the time they happen it feels awful. I lost sleep the night after the speech. In the morning I woke up with a new idea for the Job Shop page. I am sending this article to the staff at Specs Howard in gratitude for the opportunity to speak and in the hope they can send it to the new graduates so they can now get the message I meant to tell them in person.
Dennis Kraniak is a Senior Web Producer for myFOXdetroit.com. He can be reached via e-mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org .