In answer to a prompt I asked early on last semester about what they “believe” one of my students alluded to the success he would
achieve because he had confidence.
Self-confidence is a great trait to own.
On the other hand, I couldn’t help wondering if he wasn’t putting the proverbial cart before the horse. It was great that he could
display confidence on that internship or job interview, but about what, exactly, did he have to be confident?
Now maybe at the ripe old age of 18 he’s already scaled great
heights of which I’m unaware but he didn’t hint at any. The only thing it seemed he was bringing to the table was that confidence.
He’s not alone.
According to last year’s survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 57% of hiring managers say the millenials come off as overconfident in interviews.
While I know this can’t be shocking news—we’ve been telling
the members of Gen Y they’re wonderful since the day they were born—when I interact with these kids one-on-one, the story is a bit more complicated.
Some of them are indeed confident where they don’t deserve to be. But many of them use the guise of confidence to mask gripping
insecurities. They’ve donned the illusion of self-confidence to shirk
self-reflection. They’ll act the role of confident applicant, but deep down they don’t believe it.
But they also won’t let on.
I’ve run afoul of new students more than once when I critique
their work. They act indignant when I suggest that maybe they could do a better job, or worse still, when I tell them that they’ve missed the point of the assignment, altogether. They do not like being told that they’re wrong –especially from someone they barely know. Interestingly, once they get to know me, they crave a bit of my criticism. They want some honest feedback –even when I tell them they could do better. Maybe, because they know they can, too.
The flip side to their thinking-they’re-wonderful-when-they’re-not,
is that sometimes they don’t give themselves the credit they deserve. Somebody, somewhere has saddled them with a label or two and they cling to it like it’s their only identity. When I suggest that maybe they’re better, more capable than they think they are, that’s when they truly doubt me.
Really, it doesn’t take me long to convince my students that their papers aren’t as good as they think. It takes me way longer to show them that they are a whole lot better than they think they are.