We try to avoid references to "The Graduate" because it's a huge cliche for journalists in stories about plastics. Plus, as I've written before, the line is often misquoted, and it's almost always taken out of the context of the movie. It wasn't meant to be wise advice from a friendly neighbor. It was a joke, exploiting plastics' poor image.
But there's an exception in this week's issue, in a nice feature on Jeff Siebenaller's 50-year career in plastics. In his interview with Frank Esposito, Siebenaller brought up the famous "just one word" line a couple of times.
Siebenaller is still optimistic about the industry's future, so it's safe to say he still considers that line about plastics — one of the most memorable lines in movie history — to be valid advice.
But let's dig a little deeper. Last week, I asked followers on social media for their best advice for young workers in the plastics industry. I got some great suggestions:
• Work hard, network whenever possible and talk face-to-face to industry experts. This, coupled with social media will keep you informed and connected to plastics related technology and the potential for disruptive device technology. — Donna Bibber.
• The sky is the limit for opportunity — don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. — Joe Karpinski Jr.
• I was an usher when this movie came out. No idea I would end up in this industry for decades! Young workers: They have the opportunity, with all of the technological advances, to make significant contributions to this industry. — Keith Warnick.
• A customer told me his dad said to him: "Son, in this business, you'll never get rich, but you'll also never be without a job." — Matt Brownson.
• Help others as much as possible. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. … Talk to people outside your area of expertise. Plastics is a multifaceted industry full of great minds. Pick their brains, expand your world. — Mercedes Landazuri.
• Learn to make them, use them, reuse them and dispose them properly. Planet Earth and the next generations will thank you! — Jaime Gomez.
I also happened to see a column last week, on the Brunswick, Maine, The Times Record's website, by David Treadwell, headlined "Career advice beyond 'Plastics!'" He approached the idea in a different way, asking his friends, "What career advice would you give to your grandchildren?"
His group had some solid ideas: Do what you love. Bear with the boss — even a bad one. Always look out for No. 1: you. Be willing to take risks. Work hard and be persistent. Get in the habit of saving. There were more, and they're all good. But one stood out to me: Latch onto good mentors. "Most people like being mentors; if they don't, they're probably not worth being mentored by," Treadwell wrote.
Doesn't that ring true? Our reporters often ask successful people how they got that way, and typically that sparks a conversation about a mentor they had at some point in their career.
It's too bad that Mr. McGuire, the pushy neighbor in "The Graduate," wasn't actually a trusted plastics industry professional, eager to mentor confused young Benjamin Braddock. Ben could have used some authentic career advice.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of The Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.