I was an invited guest on a careers panel two weeks ago as part of our Graduate Student Council’s annual conference. While the audience was different (graduate students instead of the undergraduate students I more often work with) the questions were the same.
“All of the jobs I apply for require more years of experience than I have, but I can’t get the job without having that much experience. How am I supposed to get the experience they want if they won’t give me the chance to accumulate the amount of experience they’re looking for?”
The eternal debate. The ongoing question. The vicious cycle.
I’ve heard (and given) many of the typical answers to this question.
Volunteer. Ask for more responsibility in your current role. Network and seek out other opportunities. Rework your resume to best showcase your skills and education.
One of the panelists on last week’s panel, however, had a far more interesting response.
Turn the clock faster.
To badly paraphrase, the panelist (an entrepreneur and high ranking executive on an international engineering professional society), spoke of fitting more experiences and, consequently, more development, into a shorter amount of time. As experience and the learning it offers comes in time, he argued, graduating students need to start ‘turning the clock faster’ to rush their development.
On the surface, every single molecule of my Student Affairs training screamed out in protest. Development can’t be rushed! Everyone walks their own path! Learning is not a sprint! How could anyone possibly advocate for rushing the student experience?
Except maybe we’re already doing that.
We spend a lot of time in Student Affairs talking about development and growth. Both terms have process or progress in their definitions, implying a gradual journey between externally defined stages. We insert ourselves, and rightly so, into the whole student experience, following a path from orientation to graduation (and often beyond), hoping to impact each step along the way.
Being fortunate enough to watch students progress through a multi-year journey, we talk of students’ ‘readiness’ for experiences. Not yet, not now, but soon. Slow and steady wins the race.
In our own professional development, we talk openly about making mistakes and about failure. We praise trying something, anything, over inaction. Standing still makes us antsy and we advocate for progress, not perfection.
I used to continually berate myself for not enjoying the moment, for not slowing down and reflecting on both where I am and where I’m going. Now, I get stuck in a strange developmental limbo – longing for progress but yearning for patience. Do we do this to our students too?
I have no answer (yet) for how to solve this dilemma, but the idea of ‘turning the clock faster’ suddenly doesn’t seen so bad if, as we sometimes discover, the hands aren’t moving at all.
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