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Faculty of Business and Law - Occasional Speaker

Sunday, 22 January at 10.30am

Ms Cheryl Gwilliam


Thank you Pro-Chancellor, good morning graduates, faculty, parents, family and friends.

Firstly congratulations graduates! Thank you for the honour of allowing me to be a part of your graduation ceremony.  

I am sure the challenges you have faced in the seemingly endless hours of reading, listening to lectures and preparation of papers, are still fresh in your mind. You have all experienced a time of growth, of great learning and personal development, and you now reap the benefits of your hard work, perseverance and passion.

When I think back to my own graduation some years back now, the opportunities were not very bright. There was high unemployment, minimal opportunities for graduates and fewer opportunities for women graduating in economics – my Mum and Dad thought they would need to support me for ever! They have, but I got a job!  

My challenge was to gain credibility in the workplace, not only as a graduate but as a woman too. Thank goodness times have changed!

Economies and financial markets have fluctuated, technology has rapidly advanced and equity exists in the workplace. But no matter what, the need for each of us to gain and maintain credibility still holds true. Even today I still make a good cup of coffee!  

For many of you, your first great challenge may be to find a graduate job that you will be truly passionate about. While the unemployment rate is low and job opportunities are plentiful, when you win a job you will need to be prepared to deal with the high expectations that many employers have of graduates.

Since my own graduation, through trial and error, I have learnt three valuable lessons that I believe may help you in some way on your path to personal and career success.

The first lesson was that communicating effectively is about much more than talking and being heard.  Knowing when to speak, how to make a point and how to think on your feet are skills that will stand you in great stead throughout your career.

Written skills which are timely, clear and tight are also important.

However, another key aspect of communicating effectively is to actively listen. This means listening to advice or feedback when it is provided and understanding expectations. Being able to demonstrate that you have listened and understood adds to your credibility.  Always remember that you will learn more by listening than you will by talking.

My second lesson was that you can only control what you control.

Change will happen around you and you must remember that you are always in charge of how it affects you, but you cannot make change stop.

Most recently we have all seen the way business and service provision has changed. The constant state of flux has lead organisations to alter their structures, redesign services and service delivery models and deliver new products to be competitive, and people in turn have had to adapt.

Managing how change affects you requires the courage of your convictions, a belief in your ideas and self belief. You will need to draw on these characteristics to be able to deal with change. Remember that through change there will be opportunities. Opportunities that you may wish to pursue.

You may have setbacks and there may even be times where you will question your choices or the job you are in. It is at those times that you must give yourself a chance, reflect and answer those questions, yourself! Listen, learn and if you still need help, ask someone who may have experienced similar situations.  

My final lesson was simple, passion will help you to succeed in all aspects of your life. Employers will be looking for the graduate who is passionate about achieving organisational outcomes and goals they want to achieve personally. Failing to plan to achieve your goals is planning to fail, and without passion and commitment to your goals you cannot succeed.

Have dreams, follow your dreams and do it with integrity of character and with passion. Do what you know is right. Remembering it is vital to protect your integrity. Challenges to this will be constant. You will need to respond. This is not an area to be passive in. Passion and integrity will enable you to enjoy and pursue work and to take the path that is best for you. I have moved to different jobs with more money, or significantly less money, in order to maintain personal integrity, join innovative work teams or to pursue a work passion.

In conclusion graduates, I hope that my own three lessons:

  • communicate effectively
  • control what you can control
  • maintain your passion and integrity

will resonate with you and help you in some way. I wish each of you every success in the future. Thank you.

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