Chris Matthews at MassCUE

by Jean Tower

At the MassCUE and M.A.S.S. Annual Technology Conference today we heard Chris Matthews of Hardball. It was an interesting keynote speech, full of personal anecdotes from his long and fascinating career, and some advice for our students.

The scheduled keynote presenter was Rachel Maddow, who had to cancel at the last minute for an important interview for MSNBC. Chris Matthews did a remarkable job stepping in with only a couple of days notice.

In his opening remarks he said, “Education remains the key to getting ahead in life, not just for recent immigrants, but for all.” He talked about the challenging childhood experiences of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and stated that education was an essential component that helped them get ahead.

He reminded the crowd of 1300 attendees that he has ties to Massachusetts, as an alum of Holy Cross and as a staffer of 6 years for Thomas Tip O’Neill. He had everyone chuckling when he mentioned the reaming he got from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, but did say he is going to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity, just the same.

Although he talked about leadership and some of the qualities of great leaders, and offered compelling examples, the biggest take-away for me (as an educator) was when he gave the following advice to students of today.

He told them to stay connected, network, stay in touch on Facebook with your 5 or 10 close friends from high school and your 10 or 15 friends from college, especially for those first few years out of college. Use these connections to network, find opportunities, and know what others are doing. This may provide the spark for you to make that critical connection to your first job, or an idea for a career. This was great advice and flies in the face of the advice I sometimes hear that Facebook is a waste and that students should stay out of social networking. I was happy to hear someone talk about the many benefits of staying in touch this way. It really is the way of the world.

Chris also said that recent graduates should not be afraid to ask favors, that, in fact, resumes are nearly useless today and that making connections, networking, asking for a favor, and selling yourself are the tools that will land you your first job. I loved his idea that asking and receiving a favor is a “two-fer.” Once someone does a favor for you they have a little bit of investment in seeing you succeed. They’ll do you another favor later.

Tomorrow’s keynote is Peter Reynolds of Fablevision and I am already looking forward to that.

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