Standing in the dark parking lot I was aware of two sounds; the slurred and sloppy murmurs of a few people milling around looking for another drink, and the pounding rhythm of “Run to the Hills.” It was my favorite song, by my favorite band, and I wasn’t inside to see it.
Instead I was outside, sitting in the bed of a buddy’s pickup waiting for him and another friend to come out. We’d been able to find two general admission tickets. The third, unfortunately, was going to cost around four times the original sales price. I’m sorry, no high school student, or at least none that I hung with, had $80 for an Iron Maiden ticket in 1982. So there I was, alone with the drunks and not really able to hear much in the Gulf Coast Coliseum’s parking lot. As I write this I’m thinking that if my mom knew her teenage son was out there alone she’d have had a fit! We’ll see if I get a note from my dad…
Why does this story mean anything? Well, other than the fact that I still love the thundering hooves of Run to the Hills (even if it’s Nicko drumming behind Steve Harris, not Clive) it’s that sometimes you come AFTER the last person in line. Sometimes you miss a deadline. Sometimes not everyone gets served. Sometimes if you snooze, you lose.
This semester I’ve seen this play out a few times. First it was the Career Coach meetings. In each career class students are required to schedule a meeting with their career coach. I don’t give them a time, they have to make and keep an appointment. There is a limited window of time to complete this task. Most students make an appointment as soon as I announce it’s open and they are fine. Some don’t. Some wait. Some wait until the last week and can’t understand why there aren’t more appointments available. They feel like if they come to my office and insult me, I’ll see things their way. Well, there were vacant spots the first two weeks of the meetings. Unused spots. Had you signed up early, you would have been in those spots. But you waited. You snooze, you lose.
Last week a student volunteered his time and energy to arrange a clothing drive to benefit Dress for Success. This charity collects gently worn professional clothing to help people who lack the resources to purchase new professional clothing. Unfortunately, a number of students arrived later than others so they had to wait in line. When the cutoff time came, they thought the room should remain open to take their donation. They wanted the points I was offering. They won’t get points because they didn’t make a donation. According to the organizer, my student was in the room alone for over an hour before the first donation came in. That person got points. The student who was the last to be served said she was afraid because of the jeering and heckling a group of students decided was appropriate. The hecklers were being denied points in a professionalism class so it was appropriate to act unprofessional. They also wanted to “demand” a meeting with me. They will get neither and I will be happy to deduct points for their behavior. You snooze, you lose.
Finally, I saw a number of students wait until the last minute to register for a Friday presentation in the Career Professionalism Speaker Series. This is our Friday lecture. Students have to register for and attend one. I make them arrive on time, be professionally dressed and conduct themselves appropriately. If not, they don’t get credit. They get a point deduction. Why? Because no one lets you come and go as you please, or sleep, of just surf on your phone in a business meeting. If you are late for an interview, you don’t get the job. If you are unreliable, you get fired. And as my coach used to say, you play the way you practice. If I were to let things like this go then I’m just giving in the narrative that millennials are self-indulgent little twerps who can’t communicate and live on their phones. Instead, you snooze, you lose.
On the radio last week I heard a program where they were talking about the skills college students need to get jobs and what schools are doing to develop them (https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-04-14/navigating-the-transition-from-school-to-the-workplace). One of the skills they mentioned was more of a trait; grit. It’s a determination to see things through and recover from failure. The students who missed deadlines this semester have failed. Not a major thing like getting a DUI, getting someone pregnant, or losing a bunch of money gambling on sports, but something that they should have done that they didn’t. I hope they will show grit. I hope they will learn from what happened and show a sense of urgency in the future. I hope they will accept the responsibility for missing something and make changes to see that it doesn’t happen again. That’s learning. That’s grit.
However, if they choose to continue to blame me, or the college, or the system, or parking, or anything other than themselves, then I hope they’ll at least have the decency to tell the recruiter who wants to hire them that nothing is ever their fault.
Fortunately I know that the majority of my students get it. They amp me up because I see them at events, professionally prepared and talking to the guests. I hear that through their work they are finding jobs and internships by leveraging the events and opportunities we offer. They get it. They have grit. They’re might win. They might get to the one…as long as they don’t snooze! I hope those students who get it will reach out to their struggling classmates and share how they schedule their time. Then, I hope those who need help will admit it and accept their offer of help. Because which of the following looks better on your resume:
- Stood by and watched a struggling colleague fail resulting in them not being in my way as I rocketed to fame and fortune by hurdling their prone academic corpses
- Mentored at-risk colleagues by providing scheduling and study skills training resulting in a YoY one letter grade improvement in their GPA
I’d say the second one is leadership material, what do you think? While they do that, let’s waste a few minutes watching some Iron Maiden: