We’re hitting that season where “Congratulations Class of 2015” paraphernalia is beginning to populate the shelves of Hallmark stores and students are getting a steady stream of graduation-related emails. Parents are making arrangements to travel and students have already started to exchange graduation tickets to make sure family members get a seat at the ceremony.
In the midst of all this commencement excitement, there’s a need for graduating students to process and reflect on their college experience. What were formational moments in your education? In what moments were you most challenged? Where did you see your greatest triumphs? What are your standout stories?
Not only is reflection a good practice for personal well-being and readying oneself mentally for post-graduation transition, but it is also a key practice for preparing oneself for professional engagements. Consider the following common interview questions:
“What’s a time you exercised leadership?”
“How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?”
“Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work or in class, and how you dealt with it.”
“If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?” (Not kidding – this is a question that appears on a number of interview question listings)
Each of these questions is an opportunity to share a story from your college experience. A challenging class, a roommate difficulty, an executive board position of a campus organization – all of these, and many other facets of your educational history, can be pulled in to illustrate your strengths. The beauty of answering these questions with personal stories is that it helps lend a heightened sense of authenticity to your answers.
The difficulty, particularly when situated in a time-crunched period of final papers, graduation prep, and job applications, is to actually take the time to do deep, meaningful reflection. I think a major misstep that can make reflection even more challenging is to try to digest a several year period in a single setting. Reflection is a process. So, here’s a few suggestions for practicing intentional, effective reflection:
- Set aside time – book time in your schedule, once a week from 20 to 30 minutes to reflect.
- Go somewhere without distractions – Lake Virginia has some especially great spots to sit and think 🙂
- Organize – map out your college experience, perhaps by year, and write out all of your areas of involvement. Use this as a blueprint for thinking through your experiences.
- Write it down – take a notebook with you and jot down your stories and reflections so that you read through it for job interviews, etc.
- Start now – if your graduating, start now so that you’ll be prepared for interviews in the coming months. If you are not graduating, take advantage of your time and start reflecting now.
- Planning for future opportunities – include time in your reflection space to link your unique experiences with common interview questions and desired qualities. Think through how you can bridge your college experience with these top 5 qualities for prospective hires: 1. Hard working, 2. Dependable, 3. Positive, 4. Self-motivated, & 5. Team-oriented.
I hope that you enjoy this commencement season, and find time to deeply reflect on your experiences. Translating your personal story into one that is relatable for others, whether in professional circles or others, is a crucial practice that contributes greatly to one’s success and well-being.
If you’d like coaching or help taking your educational history and framing it within an interview-context, check out the resources offered online by Rollins Center for Career and Life Planning, or make an appointment via R-CareerLink, the phone (407-646-2195), or stopping by the office at 170 W. Fairbanks (1st Floor).