As I mentally shelved the various projects and works of my own career to clear my mind and take myself back in time to rekindle the kind of feelings that you are surely and certainly most deservedly experiencing this evening, I promised myself, and I promised you too at the same moment that I would try to not use cliches like, "today is the first day of the rest of your life" however true that it may be.

In the solitude of my quasi meditative state this past Sunday evening while preparing for this momentous occasion with Celebrity Apprentice on in the background and the dog at my feet - who came to me in thought but Paul and John? No, not the biblical Paul who experienced a major attitude adjustment when he went from bullying the early Christians to becoming an apostle of one of the most influential personalities ever written about, and not the biblical John who advised a group of soldiers not to extort money or falsely accuse people. This is not to say they arent good stories or wouldnt make good subject matter for a commencement speech.

Lo and behold, it was actually Paul and John of the Beatles who permeated my thoughts on Sunday evening, singing their hit song The Long and Winding Road

The long and winding road
that leads to your door
will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door

I commend you for the path you have walked down, culminating in this deserving and delicious recognition and celebration of your achievements, a path that hasnt been easy on top of demanding studies, for many if not all of you. Many of you have held down full time employment, put off having families or making commitments, had to balance school, finances, single parenting, and child and or elder care among other challenges to fulfill dreams of earning a family sustaining income, obtaining economic well-being, home ownership, and yes, some discretionary income for a yearly vacation to the Caribbean, or Europe. Why not? If we work hard we deserve to play hard and sacrifice should yield reward. You deserve this.

The long and winding road is marked with many milestones throughout life. Today is such a milestone in your lives, one of many albeit this one is a definitely a true game changer. You have done very well for yourselves and your loved ones in your choices up to this point. The research I did in preparing for this evening absolutely validates your wise choice to attend ITT Technical Institute a post-secondary institution that truly specializes in training students for the high demand occupations of the future.

The United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics Published an Occupational Outlook for 2008 through 2018 and it indicates the following about the career paths you specifically have chosen:

Overall, and of great importance is that occupations in the associate degree category are projected to grow the fastest, at about 19 percent.

For those of you who have studied Criminal Justice, you should know that Protective Services occupations are projected to see a 12% increase translating to over 400,000 jobs. In addition, there will be increased demand for law enforcement officers to support the growing U.S. population the results of which are now starting to emerge from the 2010 Census.

Employment in computer systems design and related services is expected to increase by 45 percent, driven by growing demand for the design and integration of sophisticated networks and Internet and intranet sites. And for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, employment in management, scientific, and technical consulting services is anticipated to expand at a staggering 83 percent. Demand for these services will be spurred by businesses continued need for advice on planning and logistics, the implementation of new technologies, and compliance with workplace safety, environmental, and employment regulations.

Architecture and engineering occupations are projected to add over 270,000 jobs, or a growth rate of about 10 percent.

So, OK, you studied and sacrificed and reached a milestone on this long and winding road. Much congratulations to you for your wisdom and dedication, and to your loved ones who have been supportive and encouraging of your choices. However, thats not all Im here to do congratulate you. Its my duty to not only congratulate you but to tell you that what you have done here is build a solid foundation for a career and that now the real work begins.

The road in this song I keep talking about..

While John and Paul wrote the lyrics to this sad and melancholic song with an evocation of an as-yet unrequited, though apparently inevitable, love interest in mind - when they were singing it in concert in my head I got a very clear picture of the relationship that we have with life itself. In particular Im going to hone in on careers.

To my shock and awe, in the past few years I have had the unfortunate opportunity to meet individuals who felt they were so secure in their career with 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years in at the job that they just had to show up and do the same day after day that they were safe and would always be there, that they would retire from there. But as we all know from watching the news and listening to our families, friends and neighbors stories the past few years, all too often it turned out that wasnt the case and because they hadnt considered what if or because they lacked inspiration to skip down the long and winding road rather than saunter down it, they were caught without relevant marketable skills when they were downsized. Many are now aged off of unemployment and unable to return to work at previous income levels because jobs with the outdated skills are jobs that no longer exist.

Our parents' dream of finishing school and getting a job with a good company that will take care of you until you retire, one where youll get annual percentage raises based on the prior years compounded salary rarely any longer exist. The reality is that todays average tenure in a company is about 36 months. That doesnt leave much opportunity for compounding raises when youre starting a job every 3 to 4 years, does it?

My message to you is that you do not have to take the same trip down that road. Your journey can be very, very different. My advice on how to achieve that is to aspire to be a savvy career professional.

Savvy career professionals own their own careers. By that I mean that they frequently re-examine the career path theyre on. They understand the importance of not getting too comfortable in their skill sets and expertise which can enable one to think they know it all. The truth is of course someone else always knows something we dont. Thats what conferences and seminars are for.

They reinvent themselves from time to time through acquiring new marketable skills to remain relevant and recognize that its their responsibility and not that of their employer, to keep their skills up to date. At the same time they are eager to accept opportunities their employer provides for new training, learning and challenges. They dont get complacent.

And, to further distinguish themselves, they stay on top of technological advancements and industry and market news and statistics - so that they are never ever ever left standing there waiting for someone to lead them to the door because they are always a few steps ahead of everyone else.

Today, March 31st, 2011, you now have an excellent foundational education to obtain a position that will enable you to acquire a practical one over time. One in which you can develop and grow to reach your full professional potential. Your experience at ITT Technical Institute not only trained you in an occupation it proved to you what you are capable of, how much you can grow in a couple of years if you really want to and what you can really accomplish when you commit yourself to something.

I am sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to share this very important milestone in your lives here with you this evening. Now go forth as savvy career professionals down the long and winding road with the confidence to know that you will power the companies that power the economy of northeastern Pennsylvania and the world.


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