From my experience as a writing tutor at UCR’s Academic Resource Center for the past three years, I’ve noticed how students constantly struggle to understand their newfound independence while maintaining the right mindset for pursuing their future career path. Particularly, students need to understand how college acts a stepping stone for success. Ben Nelson explains that college is meant to stimulate critical thinking skills and provide new perspectives instead of the misconception that it trains students for a career. This was the case for entrepreneurs and celebrities like Steve Jobs and Rachel Ray whose dropping out of college became the stimulus for their future success — precisely due to their brief college stint exposing them to new and different experiences. Because students misunderstand that college prepares them for a career through providing job skills, they focus on their academics instead of the manner in which they handle it. In other words, those Red Bull-fueled, sleepless nights of research papers and missed lectures that create a poor work ethic are what employers want employees to work on, not those 4.0 GPAs.
One example of this poor work ethic is the inherent flaky nature of students. Because students underestimate how important a job’s tasks are, students are less likely to appreciate the trust and responsibility that their employer shows through giving them that task. At UCR’s arts department, my boss will consistently have up to two student volunteers per quarter who end up leaving their assigned open lab hours incomplete. Because they quit without seeing the benefits of developing a work ethic, they lost out on the valuable soft skills like conflict resolution, leadership and more that monitoring an open lab for students provides. Their apathy toward how their quitting from volunteering from the arts department compromises my boss’ position was yet another sign of a poor work ethic. They put my boss in a tight position because she then has to take care of everyone’s ruffled feathers, since it makes the arts department overall look bad for not providing the promised open lab hours. These volunteers missed out on a valuable learning opportunity to develop a good work ethic and have my boss as a reference to highlight that work ethic to a future employer.
Another misconception that students have about developing a good work ethic is through involvement in student organizations. While extracurriculars like academic sororities and Bible groups are ways for students to practice networking, it could be inferred that they are less beneficial compared to a minimum wage part-time job, which builds a strong work ethic. This is because students are surrounding themselves primarily with other students instead of established working professionals. While risk-taking is good to a certain degree because it causes a person to go outside of their comfort zone, students need to understand that merely socializing and partying still does not qualify as the work ethic, or experience, that employers look for.
When bosses like John Longworth state that although “(people) can’t change who (they) are, (they) can change (their) behaviour,” they’re referring to how a person’s work ethic is the largest deal breaker in terms of what they look for in an employee. In fact, the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that students disproportionately overrate how well they practice soft skills such as communication, being a team player, critical thinking and more in comparison to the low ratings employers give them. This overestimation of their capability leads to students coming off as cocky, privileged and unwilling to do the work required of them. Factoring in my arts department boss’ issues with student volunteers, there is this notable attitude problem that students tend to have. That is, the belief that only certain tasks require their full attention, instead of striving to place their full attention on the tasks at hand.
Nuances such as these are ultimately what students need to realize are important. Specifically, alongside the independence that students experience, accountability is a vital aspect which they should be aware of. If they place more personal investment into their actions, then instead of seeing it simply as a job to get money, they will develop personal accountability. Only upon doing so will students develop pride, happiness and fulfillment in their work. Furthermore, this character development becomes the driving force which empowers them to persist on in the workforce.