Viewpoint

Three keys to graduates’ futures

June 6, 2014 

What does the future hold for the more than 7,500 young men and women graduating this year from high schools and colleges in San Luis Obispo County? With a rocky economy, many fear the future.

Will overqualified people continue to flip burgers? What will happen to all of the dreams they had? What can anxious family members and friends do to help these fledglings take flight successfully?

More than the economy, the mindsets of these graduates will be their biggest hurdles to success. Images of the brain at work show that fear robs us of our best thinking. So, just when our graduates need to be at their best, they are vulnerable to becoming dumber.

Here are three mindsets that keep talent chained up and three keys to unlock that talent.

‘I’m a victim of circumstances!’

There are many reasons that can justify why graduates might fail: “No one’s hiring in the jobs I want.” “They want people with a different set of skills than I gained.” “I didn’t have the opportunities, privileges or support that others enjoy.”

Will your loved one remain stuck in the current chapter of his or her story? What can you do?

Key No. 1: Be a catalyst to stimulate the graduate’s own action.

A great way to shift the chemistry of the situation is to be or find someone to be a catalyst for the graduate. A catalyst is someone who stimulates a response, accelerates results, but doesn’t get consumed in the process. This means that the catalyst doesn’t project his or her agenda on the graduate (as if that would work anyway). Instead, the catalyst generously listens and reflects what the graduate says. This acts as a mirror to help the graduate see his or her situation from a new perspective.

The conversation begins with “What are your hopes for your talent?” A followup question invites the graduate to answer, “Why are those hopes important to you?” These simple, yet powerful, questions shift thinking from brain-numbing fears to brain-stimulating hopes. Fresh energy and ideas begin to flow as the supple young minds shift into gear.

You can follow the script for this 45-minute conversation or find someone else with whom your graduate is comfortable. As James, a recent graduate commented, “I liked how the conversation let me air out my thinking without pressure.”

‘There are too many obstacles in my way!’

Welcome to the real world. Actually, graduates have demonstrated excellence in overcoming obstacles. How many hours have they played “Dungeons & Dragons,” helped “Sims” figures navigate life’s challenges, or snowboarded over tough moguls that would frighten older people?

Key No 2: Use obstacles as springboards to success.

Personal obstacles can accelerate success for newly minted graduates. They can build a list of the people, places and things to help them. They can stretch and try new approaches with the support of others.

When Melissa saw her dream job just out of reach, she regrouped and found a way to crowd source her idea with volunteers. She started doing what she wanted rather than wait for someone else to make it happen. Employers took notice of her initiative and opportunities opened.

‘I don’t have the credibility — the goods — to claim the opportunity I want.’

It’s tough to get a job when you don’t have one or to shift to a job you want when you don’t have experience to demonstrate your effectiveness.

Key No. 3: Create tangible demonstrations of your talent.

It’s easy to talk a good line, but there is nothing like concretely showing results. Fran wanted to be a supervisor, but she had never managed people. So, what did she do? She interviewed successful managers to find out what great supervisors do. Then, she demonstrated in mock interviews and projects how she could deliver results. Using what she learned, she even wrote up a set of guidelines for first-time supervisors. She showed that she had the goods for the job.

Just as your graduate figures out how to use an interesting new tech device if you let it lie around, you can leave these keys in reach to offer to trusted family members or friends to support your graduate to unlock a fulfilling future.

Don Maruska is a master certified coach in Morro Bay and co-author of “Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life.”

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