At the beginning of the year I give students a get-to-know-you survey as an assignment. By far the question more kids have trouble with every year is “Name 3 accomplishments you are proud of.”
This is no surprise. Most kids don’t want to be seen as self-centered, egotistical or a braggart. Yet, think about college applications. Think about any job interview you’ve been to. Inevitably one question comes along the lines of “What have you done?” – or for our kids, “What sets you apart from the thousand of other kids I’ve read about?”
Being able to describe your accomplishments and talents, in an informational and non-boastful manner, is a skill that can be developed. However, there is a fine line to walk between informing others and bragging; we can help students walk that line. Before we can help them walk the line they have to first learn how to start walking – which in this case means we can’t help kids promote themselves humbly until they first start promoting themselves.
The first big hurdle is getting kids to realize the skill of self-promotion is worth it. College applications are a great motivator, but only for students where the proximity to applying for college or a job adds urgency. Here’s one place where tapping into pop culture knowledge can help.
Often the most successful entertainers are not the most talented ones, but often they are the ones with the strongest work ethic and the most skilled at self-promotion. In 2015 Kanye said during a radio station interview “Humbly, I would say I’m the most influential person in footwear right now.” Hate him or love him, Kanye is an expert at drawing attention to what he has to offer, and utilizes his stature as a multi-platinum recording artist to help increase exposure for his other endeavors. That ability to self-promote has been the biggest driver in his career, regardless of his talent (or “talent.”)
The second big hurdle is to help kids fine-tune that line between sharing and bragging. All kids approaching graduation should have at least three of those moments they can speak about in writing and in person, whether for a college application or job interview or inquisitive relative. I like to consider three things when developing how to share a specific moment:
- Does the accomplishment leave the listener with a better impression of you?
- Would the listener know enough about the situation to truly understand the magnitude of your accomplishment?
- Is it relevant / appropriate for you to share the accomplishment at that moment?
Moments should always improve how an employer or admission board would look upon you – otherwise there’s no reason to share. Sometimes those moments require more description to help people appreciate why they should have a better impression of you. If you took apart and cleaned a carburetor by yourself, is this the first one you’ve ever done? Did you have to teach yourself how? Did you have any unforeseen obstacles you had to overcome to be successful? Those all help add qualities to your story that you may want to portray.
Finally, are you sharing for a reason? Typically there is an opportunity in every interview or application where you are asked to share how you overcame a tough situation or persevered in the face of failure. Tweak your proud moments to the kinds of questions that will likely be asked.
One activity you can do in light of the current political landscape is analyze both major party’s candidates statements. Pull quotes from the most recent debates, ads, or interviews and have kids critique statements from both candidates. Have them find flaws, but focus on having kids improve the statements. What could they add to educate and sway an independent voter? Someone on the other side? Do the statements leave a better impression of the speaker?
Sharing humbly & honestly the great things you’ve done is a difficult skill to master, but is one truly worth developing. Do you have any activities or ideas you use to help students build this skill?
“Golden Egg Indicates Odd One Out And Alone” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Kanye West image by David Shankbone via Flickr
“Stand Out From The Crowd” image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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