We’ve all heard the phrase “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Here is what I learned about leading students. The question is do they want you to lead them to water?
I was asked to do a speaking engagement at a college not too long ago. The material I was going to discuss was about advertising, brand strategy and how both subjects play into each persons individual goals. Basically, how branding yourself as an individual, like a business can be beneficial.
As I got a little ways into the discussion, I started recognizing a re-occurring theme. Most of these college kids had no real focus. Now…they were very smart and they were doing very well when it came to grades, course work etc… but it almost seemed like they were just going through the motions. I noticed this as I started engaging them with questions about their goals and their plans to achieve those goals. Minus a diploma, I was pretty sure they were not ready for the “real world tsunami” that was about to wash over them.
So, ironically I changed my focus midway through the discussion. My next question to each individual was not “What do you want to do?” it was “What are you doing?”. Although, the difference in the two questions were subtle, the answers to those questions were dramatically different. At that point, most of the students recognized that they were actually doing nothing…nothing that was going to be beneficial to them when it came to their future. (I guess the diploma was beneficial, but that is debatable due to the fact they didn’t even seem sure if they were seeking the right degree.) They could have given me any answer as to what they WERE going to do, but the answer to what they were doing NOW wasn’t as polished a response. Most lacked focus and a plan.
The rest of the time spent in the class was very engaging and as I got to the end of the discussion, I realized that I had actually helped each and every one of the students with focus. The alternative would have been just another lesson that would have gotten them nowhere when it came to their future.
What I know is that times have changed and it seems like schooling has not. Since we are not living in such an industrialized nation where taking orders is going to get you that great job that you can retire from 30 years later, I think we need to update the way things are done. Especially in college settings. Pay attention to the individual student. Help them focus and set goals. Guide them toward those goals.
Hey, colleges, I ask you the same question that I asked the individual class members…“What are you doing?” to help students. I hope you are listening to them…maybe they want you to lead them to something else to drink?
Great article. You’re right. 100 years ago people were focused on what they wanted to do, or what they were going to do when they grow up. You usually followed the family business. Today I noticed college students have no idea of what they are going to do because of the job market. Rather than start college knowing what you want to do, they enter hoping they can find something they like, and will be a job market for. There needs to be someone directing them, like a real counselor, instead of the overworked ones who barely have a few minutes to speak to each student.