Bill Sniffin: 2024 Graduates Ask ‘What Is Going To Happen To Me?’

Bill Sniffin writes: “To 2024 graduates, your future is coming at you at a terrific speed and there is very little you can do to get ready for it, except get an education and use your education.”

Bill Sniffin

May 18, 20246 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Has there ever been a crazier time to be a graduate than this year?

This message is for graduates from the University of Wyoming, the state’s seven community colleges, Wyoming Catholic College and all the high schools in the state from Evanston to Newcastle, Powell to Cheyenne and every else between.

Each year, I write a column offering my advice to high school and college graduates. Usually, it is easy. Work hard. Find mentors. Be honest. Don’t take your cellphone to job interviews. You know, all the same old stuff.

But this year, we have to look at it differently.

And Then There Is AI

The reason for this is artificial intelligence (AI).

AI has become an integral part of our lives and anyone going out into the working world needs to have an understanding of it.

So, I asked ChatGPT what challenges are ahead for grads? Here is what this AI application has to offer:

  1. Job Market: The job market may continue to evolve with advancements in technology. Certain industries like technology, health care, renewable energy and sustainability may see growth, while others may face challenges due to automation or economic shifts.
  2. Remote Work: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work. Many companies may continue to offer remote work options, which can open job opportunities for graduates regardless of their location.
  3. Skill Demands: There's a growing demand for skills in areas like data science, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and digital marketing. Graduates with these skills may find themselves in high demand.
  4. Soft Skills: Employers also value soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, adaptability and teamwork. Graduates who can demonstrate these skills alongside technical expertise will have a competitive edge.
  5. Education and Training: Lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important as technology evolves rapidly. Graduates who continue to upskill and adapt to new technologies and methodologies will have better career prospects.
  6. Entrepreneurship: Some graduates may choose to pursue entrepreneurship rather than traditional employment. The availability of resources for startups, such as funding opportunities and incubator programs, can influence this decision.
  7. Global Outlook: The global economy and geopolitical factors can also impact job prospects. Graduates who are open to opportunities abroad may find additional options for employment or further education.

But Listen, There Is More

It would hard to argue with the above. But I thought I need to add some other items to this column:

This is my message for 2024 graduates – your future is coming at you at a terrific speed and there is very little you can do to get ready for it, except get an education and use your education.

Cheyenne’s Tucker Fagan’s storied career (he developed the missile “football” for President Reagan, headed the Wyoming Business Council, etc.) provided great insight during a recent podcast with Cowboy State Daily’s Wendy Corr.

His key was that he always wanted to learn everything about his job. Sounds simple, but it is very hard work. If you become the “go-to” person in your organization you will never lose your job. Guaranteed. Sure worked for him.

Forbes used the motto, “With all you are getting, get understanding,” which also describes this approach.

As for you graduates, there is an old saying that a person needs to lead, follow or get out of the way.

In your case, you will not be able to get out of the way.

Is it possible that many of the great truths that you graduates have come to take for granted are just not true after all. Let me share three examples:

  • First, you were told that loyalty to your boss or your employer was a total waste of time and a relic from your parents and grandparents’ generations.

Not true. Instead, loyalty may be the most important factor going forward in getting and keeping that job that you covet. Do you remember the key component of the state of Wyoming’s official philosophy, called the Code of the West? To me, the big one is “Ride for the Brand.”

  • Second, here in Wyoming energy is a big, big deal. You were told your entire lives that America would be relying on foreign energy imports forever. You were taught that our destiny, as a country, is to make Arab Sheiks rich as we continually import their oil.

Not true. Today, despite President Joe Biden’s war on fossil fuels, we are a net energy exporting country. With Wyoming’s new nuclear ambitions plus environmental friendly wind and solar resources, matched with our vast coal deposits, gigantic natural gas reserves and new oil discoveries, Wyoming is helping the country send out more energy than we are importing. Amazing.

  • Third, you were told that manufacturing is dying in America and, no matter what you do, do not get into that dinosaur business. We expect everything of importance to be built in China. Surely the experience of Walmart and Apple would verify this.

Not true. Surprise, the USA manufacturing sector is gigantic. At $2.9 trillion, if this sector were a country, it would be one of the 10 largest in the world on its own.

After turning these three truisms onto their heads, it seems like much of what was drilled into you over your brief lifetime of about two decades was not as true as it was told to you.

So, what happened?

Sometimes, Things Turn Upside Down

Just when everything has a gloomy but predictable look to it, we find out that many assumed truths in the world really are upside down. What you thought was true is false. What was passe is back in fashion.

To a graduate sitting in a hot, crowded auditorium pondering that biggest of all questions: “What is going to happen to me?” well, I want to tell you that these times can be times of opportunity just as easily as they can be times of worry.

And because of all the above, that is why I write.

I see a future that is as bright as ever for the young person willing to work hard, make friends and perhaps most of all, keep learning as you grow in your careers.

Good luck and Godspeed.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.