Working in higher education, in my case within the space of residential life, presents a myriad of opportunities to meet and engage with passionate young people. In fact, on a daily basis, my team and I have the chance to speak to and work with students who may be undertaking volunteer leadership roles, planning a social, cultural or community program or supporting a charitable cause of some kind. As a result – it’s a constantly changing and truly inspiring environment. Namely because as part of these interactions, we have the opportunity to coach and support students who are passionate about a cause or project, and work with them to make it happen. In turn, we can help to shape them into sought-after, employable individuals. The benefits, therefore, are two-fold.
Firstly, the targeted group (entire community) reaps the rewards with such student-led initiatives. Secondly, those students leading the charge have the opportunity to turn their passion, and experiences, into key skills relevant to their future work-life. Here are the key approaches I take in working with students to translate their passion into employable practice:
Listen and Learn
–Seek to understand what individual students are passionate about. Use every day ‘corridor conversations’ or casual run-ins to chat about projects, activities or ideas that are on students’ minds.
–Look for ways to harness or ‘connect the dots’ between what drives or interests them and opportunities that already exist or that might become available. For example, think volunteering, leadership roles, upcoming projects or events requiring support.
Foster Creativity and Innovation
–Continually look to offer projects, activities or opportunities requiring student involvement and input.
–Encourage creativity, a ‘thinking outside the box’ or ‘there are no bad ideas’ approach to student input.
–Establish expectations or set standards where required, but let students take control. Provide them with ownership of a project or task.
–Encourage ongoing reflection about their role and how they could do things differently. Explore ways of evaluating or measuring impact.
–Introduce new resources and provide access to knowledge/people/sources who can add value.
Provide Learning Opportunities
–Encourage students to embrace the learning which results from making mistakes.
–Provide opportunities for professional and personal development. For example, consider training, volunteering or leadership positions, mentoring, coaching and/or networking.
–Provide rewards and/or recognition, both directly on a one-to-one basis and in a public setting in front of peers or management.
–Acknowledge the success stories and work with students in exploring ways to improve upon shortcomings.
–Encourage students to share their passion and engage others in supporting their project or cause.
–Connect students with real-world scenarios or working environments. Guide them in thinking about how what they are learning will be of value to others and their own skill-set.
–Finally, support students to codify their learning by transferring experiences and achievements into tangible, employable skills and examples for their resume or LinkedIn profile.
What other ways and means do you use to encourage your students to translate passions into practical employment – or life – skills?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Mallory Bower on Career Services and Job Search Tips