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On February 28, 2009 incoming MSIS students and their families joined together for luncheon to celebrate their admission into the incoming MSIS class beginning this fall. I was one of the speakers welcoming the incoming and shared some words of wisdom in a speech I coined “Be the Spork.”

The spork is symbolic of what it takes to be successful in a tough economy – the ultimate multi-tasker. Companies are not looking for spoons or forks any more. Single-taskers with with a narrow skill sets in one area are easy to find; consider them a commodity [prone to outsourcing]… After all, what happens if forks or spoons are no longer needed? They are typically laid-off. But a spork; a spork can always reinvent him or herself.

The MSIS program teaches students how to be a spork and combine multiple competencies to make you an indispensible asset to any company. Whether it’s marketing and web development, finance and systems analysis/design, security and IT governance; the key is to combine multiple competency areas to make you recession-proof.

I shared a top 10 list of pieces of advice for the incoming first-year MSIS students.

  1. Be The Spork – The economy may be bad, but it is your responsibility to make sure you are the hot commodity by combining multiple competencies. Be the spork!
  2. Friendship – Your college may find your first job but your friends will likely find your next one. Dig your well before you’re thirsty and constantly build your network. However, don’t judge your network by the quantity of friends on Facebook; rather by the quality of the relationships you maintain.
  3. Teamwork – It has been said that no one of us is smarter than all of us. Working in diverse teams is critical to raising quality and enabling innovation. Value everyone’s experience and background to get the most out of your teams.
  4. Honesty and integrity – Take everything away and that’s all you have. Nothing else matters if you don’t conduct yourself with the highest ethical standards.
  5. Get to know yourself – Spend time getting to know your likes, dislikes and preferences. Self awareness is a rare and valuable virtue. The MSIS program is a perfect setting for self exploration. Be sure to find yourself or you are at risk of someone telling you what to do for the rest of your life!
  6. Find a mentor, or two (or more)… – Mentors challenge you to be the best that you can be. They lift you up and act as your advocate when times are tough. They ask the difficult questions to help you grow as a person. Mentors help you navigate the difficult decisions you face every day.
  7. Build your resume – What makes you so special? Make sure that shines through your resume. Now is the time to build your story and practice telling it to anyone who will listen. It does not matter what you do: be a waiter/waitress, work in the computer labs, or start a business! Every moment counts; now is the opportunity to write your own story…it’s never too early to start.
  8. Be agile, flexible and reinvent yourself at every opportunity – Branch out and get out of your comfort zone. The ability to reinvent yourself and learn new skills is foundational to you being a spork, so start practicing now.
  9. Be intellectually curious – Never stop asking why and exploring your intellectual curiosity. You are here to get answers to those burning questions. Work with your professors/mentors and peers until you are satisfied with the answers you are given. It won’t be too long before your clients, customers and companies are looking to you for answers!
  10. Give back… Sharing a piece of what you received is not a choice – it is your duty as an alum and member of our IU/MSIS family. It is your job to make this world better when you left it than when you entered it, so please give back. There is no amount too small or insignificant to make a big difference.