Encourage Your Student to Take a Fresh Look at Herself—Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Today’s post comes from our guest blogger, Tami Campbell of Level Up Career Services.


Not long ago, I had the opportunity to work with a charming young lady.

We had gotten to know each other because I frequented a coffee shop where she worked. She needed to create a resume, and I happened to be a resume coach, so I offered to help her.

Now this young lady—let’s call her “Ann”—did not have a lot of work experience.  She had just completed her freshman year at a local community college, wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in, and only had one other job prior to the coffee shop.

She had never created a resume before because she didn’t think she had anything to put on one. And while she was excited to work with me on this process, she was also convinced the end result would be less than stellar.


Students often overlook important experiences

I first had her complete a very detailed questionnaire. It walked her through the process of reviewing her past experiences and accomplishments. She submitted her questionnaire to me for review. Then we met and discussed her answers.

At first glance, Ann’s responses to the questions did indeed seem limited. True, she had few paid experiences and hadn’t yet completed any major projects for classes or taken on a campus leadership role. However, the “volunteer” section of the questionnaire was completely filled out. I was pleasantly surprised!

We spent a long time talking about all her volunteer activities. It turned out Ann had been volunteering in one capacity or another for over half her life!


“I can’t believe this is me!”

After our meeting, I created a resume for Ann. Then we met again for her to review it.

At first, I was slightly concerned. Ann just stared at the document without saying anything. I waited patiently, wondering if there was something on the document she didn’t understand or was unhappy with.

And then she looked up, eyes sparkling, and exclaimed, “I can’t believe this is me!”

I was thrilled that I had given Ann the opportunity to see herself in a new light. At the same time, I was also surprised that Ann really had no idea what she had accomplished over the last few years.

I think part of my surprise came from the fact that Ann still lived at home, had a very close relationship with her mother, and did a lot of volunteering with her. I wondered if Ann’s mom pointed out to her all the amazing things she had done.


Gaining a fresh perspective

I reflected back on my own history. My mom was my biggest fan. She was always there for me, supporting and encouraging me. She constantly told me how proud she was of me and how terrific I was.

My mom was so generous with her praise that after a while it began to hold less and less meaning. Eventually, it got to the point where my immediate reaction to any praise or compliment was an unspoken “Of course you think that, you’re my mom.”

On the other hand, if a complete stranger came up to me and complimented me on the very same thing, my reaction would be totally different. I would be like, “Wow!  Did you hear that mom? Did you hear what she said?”

And that’s when I finally understood Ann.

Her mom probably did tell her how proud she was of her, how amazing her accomplishments were, and how she had so much to offer an employer. But just like I once did, Ann probably dismissed her words as biased, based more on unconditional love than cold reality.

It took someone else—someone outside her family, someone with no personal investment—to show Ann what she had accomplished and what she had to offer.


Support your students in their need for feedback

If you’re going through this with your college students, take heart. Don’t be offended if your children seem to be placing more value on what others say than on your opinion.

Instead, encourage them to seek input from others. You know how amazing they are. Now they need to have it confirmed from the larger world around them. Continue to be there for them; offer support and encouragement when they need it. But also encourage them to take a fresh look at themselves through the eyes of others.

Like Ann, your children may see themselves in ways they never imagined before.


Tami Campbell is the owner of Level Up Career Services, a firm specializing in working with college students and recent graduates. With over a decade of experience in career services and campus recruiting, she now puts her background to work guiding students (and parents) through what can often be a daunting and overwhelming process.

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