Karen Kaplan Was Hill Holliday's CEO of Reception And Urges College Graduates to Be CEO of Every Position They Hold

Speaking to the graduates of Bentley University and the other 8,000 people in attendance at the college's graduation ceremony this past Saturday, Hill Holliday Chairman and CEO Karen Kaplan told the audience to approach every position as if they were CEO.

When Kaplan joined Hill Holliday 30 years ago, she was the agency's receptionist. In those 30 years she has moved onward and upward to her current position as the agency's chairman and CEO. But even as receptionist 30 years ago, she approached the position -- which she thought of as "the face and voice" of the agency --  as if she were CEO telling commencement ceremony attendees, "I remember thinking that sounds like something the CEO should be responsible for.  And at that moment, I decided I would consider myself the CEO of the reception desk. I considered myself the CEO of every job I ever had, every account I ever ran, and every department I ever managed."

It's probably the simplest, most eloquently succinct piece of advice I've heard given to a world of people who, over the past couple of decades or so, have become so lazy, so nonchalant, so self-important, so spoiled and so selfish that they approach their jobs with a supremely no f*cks given attitude resulting in a complete collapse of basic civility, pride and honor in the work they do. 



Now that we have that out of the way, Kaplan also had other advice for the graduates including the fact that originality requires attention. To that notion, she said, "Digital natives -- you guys -- check their phones more than 150 times a day. Yet, we live in a world where there is a premium placed on the creation of original ideas … generating original thought is virtually impossible while you're busy transacting with your head down. So just make sure you pull up every once in a while and pay attention to what's going on around you that can inspire you and fuel your creativity, because the ability to create something original out of absolutely nothing will serve you well in whatever career you choose."

Again, amazing advice. Yes, daydreaming about and reflecting on things which interest you -- or things you don't even know interest you yet -- is likely to garner far more insight than scrolling through idiotic Trump posts on Facebook, watching the millionth Gary V truth bomb on Snapchat about how to crush it, swiping right and left on Tinder in hopes of finding your soul mate based on a blurry image, watching bubble-headed YouTube stars prattle on about mindless nonsense or ogling bikini-clad hotties selling detox tea on Instagram.

So yeah. Dedicate some time towards unplugged introspection. It will do you a world of good whether you are a graduating college student or a 65-year-old pondering their next career move -- because, no, rewarding work doesn't have a time limit.

And on the topic of learning, Kaplan said, "My mother taught me to be a lifelong learner, to retain the natural curiosity that we all have as children. Successful people are inspired not by how much they know, but by how much they don't know. They know they can always be better and do better. I hire people based on their perspective, not their pedigree."

At the ceremony, 1,057 students were graduated. Hopefully a fair percentage of those students will take Kaplan's advice and do more than turn into social media-fueled zombies more interested in Kardashian-esque nonsense than topics which truly affect their lives, those around them and the world in which we all live.

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