Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow


Sometimes I am surprised by the maturity of a first year student or the lack of motivation of a junior.  After reflecting on a couple appointments, I am reminded of the differences among students. Each students is unique and we can best help and support them by meeting them without judgment.

I met with a student who had 28 appointments with the Student Professional Development Center.  This particular student, who was obviously proactive, wanted to consider graduate school options.  I made the usual suggestions and quickly realized, he had already done everything I recommended.  For instance, he asked me to help him find a contact he could reach out to at another university and when I found one, he said that he had already talked to this person several times.  When the student left, I felt that I had not really helped him beyond listening.  How do we advise students like this one? Perhaps they just need someone to be a sounding board and say it’s okay to not know what’s next.  The important part is continuing to explore options.  Despite my initial reaction that this student was visiting the Student Professional Development Center too much, I realized this student is simply taking advantage of our resources which is exactly what we encourage students to do.

In contrast, I had a senior come in for her first career advising appointment and she brought one of her parents.  With a background in student development theory, this situation is not ideal. Prior to meeting with the student and her Dad, I made an assumption that the Dad was overly involved.  My goal is to empower students to make their own decisions without the influence of parental pressures, regardless of how good the intentions of the parent are.  Luckily, the parent of the senior let me have a conversation with his daughter and simply listened.  The parent was there to be supportive and help his daughter feel comfortable.  It is easy to make assumptions when parents come into appointments with their son or daughter in college.  However, after the appointment, I realized that I appreciated that this Dad encouraged his daughter to visit our office.  Furthermore, I wonder if she would have come in for an appointment without her Dad’s influence.  As a result, I am reframing how I think about parents coming in with college students for appointments.  If the preceding scenario is a way for us to get more students in our office, I think it is important to consider the benefits of a parent helping their son or daughter take a first step to career development, coming into our office.

Though in the same academic year, the two preceding students were clearly in different developmental places in considering options for after graduation. The preceding scenarios remind me of the importance of meeting students where they are and avoiding assumptions.  By meeting students where they are, career advisors can encourage and empower students to take important next steps, make their own decisions and consider their different options.  Whether students visit often or with their parents, there is value in them having career advising.




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