2016 Valedictory Speech

By Jefferson Bryan Manangquil

2016 Valedictorian Jefferson Bryan Manangquil (Master of Finance) shares his thoughts on failure and success with his fellow MBS graduates

Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Chancellor, Members of the University, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen:

Standing on this podium is surreal. It feels like it was just yesterday when I opened my scholarship offer letter to study at this prestigious University. I was one semester away from finishing Masters at another university in Sydney, so the move to Melbourne was a huge leap of faith. It was risky, but then again, as I learnt from Finance 1, the higher the risk…the  higher the return.

The returns we’ve made as of tonight are not insignificant. I believe we hit the jackpot, not because we finally got our degrees written on a piece of paper, but because now, we get to  live our dreams.

We would not have achieved this without our family and friends who fuelled us up with support and motivation to keep going forward. To our lecturers, what can I say…I don’t know if those nasty exams were necessary, but hey, we got through, we’re here and much ready to take on much harder challenges in the real world. For that, we thank you.

On my side, I want to thank my ever-supportive auntie, Alice; Queen’s College for serving as my home in the past two years in Melbourne and also the people in it—Josh Trebilcock, my crazy roommate and best friend who loves annoying me when he comes home wasted, and my smart cookies, Lexi, Juen and Todd, who always believe in me; my triple-A best friend, Nic Sacre who threatened that if I didn’t mention him in my speech, he would unfriend me on Facebook and in real life. Mate, we’ve done every single group assignment together and if it wasn’t for you…I would have gotten better marks.

I want to thank my parents—Dad, who I disappointed when I forgot to include him in my Valedictory speech for my Bachelor graduation. Now that I have the chance to make up for it, it breaks my heart that he couldn’t make it tonight due to work commitments. Last but not the least, mum, who didn’t get the memo that I was speaking tonight. I hope I surprised you, but you surprise me more with how you never get sick of supporting me in virtually whatever I do since I arrived in Australia for a chef career almost 10 years ago.

Manangquil delivering his speech at the Royal Exhibition Building on 10 December 2016

The privilege of delivering this speech is not to be taken for granted. The last time we left REB, we probably left with pale faces, broken hearts and a sore hand after a terrible exam.  But tonight, graduates, with my remaining time on the podium, my ultimate goal is that we all leave this building highly spirited for our future, even if it entails speaking about something I’m not comfortable sharing with hundreds of people I don’t know.

In my final year of Masters, as most of you could relate, I’ve focused on applying for graduate jobs, a process which was not particularly pleasant. After clicking away over 45 job applications, I’ve been invited to around 15 preliminary interviews, four assessment centres and four final-stage interviews…as of the day I wrote this speech in New York on my US trip last week, I had no offers. As a person who always achieves the best, this series of rejections had drained out all my confidence—I had nothing left. I tried so hard in many aspects, so it was natural for me to ask “out of all people, why me? Why would this happen to me? What have I not done yet to deserve it?

I started to look for the answers from friends, recruiters, our Dean at Queen’s, career advisers… even an Uber driver in LA who quit his job as a HR Manager at a big firm. Then one night, I stumbled upon a motivational video showing the faces of Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and other icons. These legends had one thing in common – they all failed. But more importantly, they did not give up…and so I didn’t.

Last October, when I faced my last major rejection after a final-stage interview, my friends have advised me to take a break, wait until early 2017 and start fresh for another year of grad job applications.

Yes, good things come to those who wait, but great things come to those  who make it happen now. So last month, amidst an intense final exam period, when 99% of applications have closed, I persisted in submitting more applications.

On my US trip last week, I was watching the Lakers basketball game live at Staples Centre when I received an unexpected email inviting me to a final interview, which was conducted over Skype between the company’s head office in Sydney and my hotel room in New Orleans. Two hours before the interview, I found myself on a last-minute shopping craze for a suit, a shirt and a tie, which I’m wearing right now. The next day, when I was strolling along the popular Bourbon Street, I heard the best news of my life which made me cry in public amidst the happy jazz vibe. Two days ago, finally, I received a coveted graduate job offer.

Graduates, let me get this straight. It is OK to fail. It shows that you’re human. Regardless of what our next steps are from here onwards, the hurdles that we will have to overcome are much tougher than a job application rejection.

When I was at my lowest point in terms of self-worth, when I lost all motivation, I could only muster up the courage to get out of bed to face another day of trying. If I didn’t, I might not be standing in front of you tonight.

Graduates, tonight, as we all celebrate our success, I urge you to also look back at how you  got here, those sleepless nights trying to beat an assignment deadline, sweat, frustration, pain, rejections… In our careers, may we use these as a source of resilience and perseverance to achieve what our hearts desire. Bear in mind, we are this country’s finest graduates, so climb mountains to reach your dreams, and on the way, if you do lose your grip and find yourself falling, never forget to pick yourself back up.

Jeffrey Bryan Manangquil was an international student from the Philippines, and completed the Master of Finance at Melbourne Business School

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