Starting a new year brings renewed energy to set goals, make improvements, and take action. This year in particular, people are holding onto hope for a brighter year ahead. Yet, as we enter 2021, we are in the midst of a pandemic and a sense of uncertainty. Your desire to be there for your students and to authentically motivate and guide them to academic and career success in a post-COVID world may be challenging, especially if you are feeling your own sense of uncertainty. If you aren’t performing your best, it can be more than challenging to help students perform at theirs.
Whatever you are dealing with can serve as a point of connection to your students, giving you a greater sense of understanding of the challenges they face as they think about their future goals. Perhaps this is the perfect time for all of us to revisit some of the basics that are so important in not only finding a job, but excelling as well.
Make a Connection
The need for positive and personal connections has deepened. Whether in person, through email, or on the phone, you may be one of the few lifelines or role models your students have. It is more important than ever to be aware of the messages you are sending, knowingly or unknowingly, to those around you.
The reality is that we all make and leave impressions with everyone we come into contact with. And, with social interactions taking place less frequently, it makes every interaction we have that much more impactful. Taking just that extra minute to take an interest in another by asking a question or checking in can make all the difference.
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Take a Look at Yourself
You can tell students what they need to do to succeed in an interview or on the job, but nothing compares to students witnessing the behavior they are being told to embrace. Just as children learn from watching their parents’ responses and actions, your students learn by observing you.
When was the last time you thought about the way YOU show up? Do you dress, act, and communicate in a manner that not only conveys information, but serves as a role model and inspires students to improve?
Change Your Focus
It can be challenging to motivate others if we ourselves are feeling less than inspired. Perhaps you are feeling stuck or experiencing COVID fatigue, just as your students are. While it can be comforting to commiserate with others, it keeps you where you are and is unproductive.
One of the easiest ways to change your focus and move forward is to look for the things that are working in your life, rather than those that are not. Identifying the positive aspects of your life and being grateful is healing, reduces stress, and helps you shift your mindset.
As your students prepare for interviews and a career, they, too, need a positive mindset. People hire people they feel good about being around. Positivity, just like negativity, is contagious. Try to catch yourself each time you may have a complaint, irritation, or negative thought, and see if you can challenge yourself to spin it into something more positive and productive.
Find Teachable Moments
Every interaction you have with your students is a teachable moment. If you are having a conversation remotely, make sure you are demonstrating how it should be done. If you notice a disorganized or distracting background on a video call, provide feedback with ideas on how to improve.
When advising students, remind them that what they do on social media has big consequences both now and in the future. Simple reminders to post a professional photo and use a professional username and email address are all things that may seem like common sense but may not be to your students.
Knowledge you take for granted or assume students know may be eye-opening.
While it can be difficult to stay on top of each student’s progress, perhaps you can keep them going by helping them set goals, then request updates. Maybe you get creative with a theme or focus and a way for each individual to feel part of something bigger. One week might be to get a new professional headshot (perhaps you do it, too); another might be to practice that one-minute elevator speech when asked the all-important question, “Tell me about yourself.”
The more fun, relevant, and motivating you can make each interaction, connection, and suggestion, the greater the impact. When you embrace and do the things you suggest to others, it’s no longer just informing, it’s inspiring! When you work at staying motivated, you help others stay motivated, too!
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