J. Kelly Hoey

Message To My 17 Year-Old Self

On Tuesday, June 9, I stood at the podium in the Church Of Saint Ignatius Loyola, before the 1000+ gathered to celebrate the 52 girls graduating from Marymount School Of New York. It was truly an honor to address the graduates and a responsibility too: this was a milestone day for these students. What if I screwed it up with my delivery or worse yet, my content.

Here’s what I had to say:

Thank you faculty, parents, students and a special thank you to the graduating class for inviting me to address them today.

Until this past Spring my personal history with Marymount was limited to that of curious New Yorker in awe of this school based on its reputation and the elegant exterior of the brownstones on 84th and 5th.

Then a gracious invitation was extended to speak to the STEM and entrepreneur class students in the Fab Lab — which fortunately for me coincided with the Invention Convention.

Thus began my love affair with Marymount which builds upon my desire to see girls excel and achieve their full potential professionally and economically.

So Who am I? This person who has been invited to address the graduating class of 2015.

I’m a speaker and strategist. Which means I’m a startup or perhaps more accurately a start-over.

As you heard in my introduction, I’ve been listed by Forbes, Fast Company and Business Insider as being influential for all my chatter online. My parents are quite proud of these accomplishments.

What was not mentioned was being identified by Forbes as an “up and comer” at age 48. That was 2-years ago.

I am proof that it is never too late to try something new.

I’ve practiced law and managed lawyers. And now I’m writing a book.

I stand before you, the graduating class as someone who feels she is standing on the threshold of possibility — really no different that where you find yourselves today.

So with that background, what wisdom can I, a Canadian by birth and a New Yorker with all my heart, impart from my career wanderings to date?

I have 3 pieces of advice.

  • Build Your Expertise.
  • Build Your Network.
  • Build Your Bank Account.

On building your Expertise — Be a lifelong learner. Continuously invest in your education and learning.

If you are not your own best investment, I don’t know what is.

Marymount has laid the foundation for you by creating an educational environment where you can ask questions, take risks, explore and grow.

Keep learning as the world is changing quickly.

Marymount has challenged you academically, so you can continually challenge yourself — and the world around you. Don’t simply learn new skills — master and own them. Embrace your ability to learn as strongly as you hold out what you already know.

Stay curious. I can’t say this enough.

Curiosity and inquiry are the only skills that will not be obsolete in 5 years.

Regarding Your Network: Putting aside my various titles, job descriptions and career wanderings, at my core I’m a problem solver who believes that solutions lie in networks of relationships. Not a single network but in diverse networks and the ability to harness the right networks at the right time is an invaluable skill set whether you are an entrepreneur or Fortune 500 CEO or High School Student crowd-funding a online conference for students globally.

Ideas without a network are simply an idea.

Right now you are surrounded by your most important community. Peers, teachers, parents — the core community that will propel you forward as change agents, innovators and leaders. The community which today celebrates you — and tomorrow asks what you’re going to do with your life.

Build Your Bank Account. This is your YES ME fund. The fund that enables you to pursue your dream job or launch a venture. Yes, save for your distant future but save too for saying yes in the near future. The yes me fund has enabled me to angel invest, launch a startup accelerator, spend a year contemplating what’s next, write a book proposal…..

Create a “yes-me” fund so you can say yes to life’s opportunities and to choosing your own path in life.

These tactics are proven career strategies for me. These tactics have lead to a career and opportunities I could never have planned or imagined when I graduated from Mt Douglas High School back in 1983.

Each of you will create your own career paths.

You will be trailblazers and continue to inspire as role models for this Marymount community.

The career choices you make are equally life choices and success strategies.

  • What is the life you want to lead?
  • What ignites your imagination?
  • How will you inspire the world around you?

For each of you, I challenge you to seek role models by their choices, values and humanity — as much as you look at titles, degrees and skill sets.

Define the life you want to lead do not allow it to be defined for you.

In preparing my comments I did read or watch a lot of commencement addresses. As with all speakers invited to address new graduates I am going to implore you to change the world.

Really. I mean it: Change the world, please.

Sorry moms, dads and grandparents in attendance today, we can’t lay claim to the greatest generation. These girls, your daughters and grand-daughters however…

Graduates, your generation is different. Stay that way! You are inspiring, compassionate, accepting, global in your outlook. Continue to be this way. Aim to lead this way. Stay active, vocal, passionate and every other over-used media buzzword used to describe your generation.

Be impatient. Be very impatient.

I said earlier in my remarks that you needed to stay curious because the world was changing quickly? Be impatient too as in many ways the world is not changing fast enough. There are too many challenges to list — but I believe these are challenges your generation can solve.

Create a better world.

Create more opportunities for yourself and for your peers and for the future generations of Marymount graduates.

To bring the network and my introduction to Marymount full circle, I am going to close with a message from my dear friend — a talented and creative, technologist and futurist, Carla Diana who is also a Marymount graduate.

“You have a voice! I don’t just mean that you are entitled to your voice, but that what you have to say matters, is of value, and can change the lives of others. Remind yourself of this often, especially when you feel like you are in a challenging situation or in front of an unfamiliar audience. What Marymount has given you is the ability to express that voice in clear, meaningful, and powerful ways through compelling writing, a strong verbal presence, and a mastery of your most passionate subject area.”

Thank you graduating Class of 2015, it has been my honor and privilege to be inspired by you.


Go back to writing

Build Your Dream

Rethink how you approach networking! Use Kelly’s roadmap to create and live your dream career.

Buy the Book

Build Your Dream Network

Buy the Book

A book to help build your dream! Use the power of networking to create and live your dream career.

Buy the Book