September 25, 2016

Many of the young men and women entering college or the workplace today have these remarkable resumes with endless lists of achievements, awards and top-notch grades. All very notable, and in many ways, important factors in evaluating a potential student or new hire. But do those few sheets of paper accurately reflect the whole person?  A resume does not show someone’s moral strengths, the resolve of their character, their ability to overcome obstacles, their work ethic, and so much more. It seems we are a culture obsessed with checking off the right boxes – and at the expense of being candid about who we are and what we want to do in this world.

In a September PBS program, TED Talks: Education Revolution, the Dean of Freshman at Stanford University and author of “How to raise an adult,” Julie Lythcott-Haims explained her concerns with our culture’s hyper-focus on our children and the right school, the right class, the right subjects, the right grades for, ultimately, the right college. She believes our youth are “withering from the anxiety” of the pressure to live up to this pre-conceived notion of a bragging-rights life. Lythcott-Haims says we should be:

Less concerned with a specific set of colleges and far more concerned that [our children] have the habits, mindset, skillset and wellness to be successful wherever they go.

Lythcott-Haims’ point is that the adults are so concerned with a specific path to success that they are holding their children back, rendering them incapable of discovering what they want to study and unable to find their own success.

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary offered advice in a column dedicated to her graduating son headed into the workforce. Singletary says:

Find work that matters to your soul. Money isn’t the only measure of success.

Singletary is reminding her son – and her readers – that there are many other rewards for fulfilling your true purpose, whether through your career, your family, your community or in other ways.

David Brooks, of the New York Times, wrote about the difference between “resume virtues, the virtues you bring to the marketplace” and “eulogy virtues… whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful.” Brooks continues:

We all know the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume ones. But our culture and our education systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success… Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

Brooks is encouraging us to discover and nurture the people we are beyond our careers. Collectively, these writers are helping us see the missed opportunity of living a life that doesn’t truly reflect who we are.

So, on our quest to attend the right college or build the perfect resume, are we losing sight of the heart of the matter? Let’s refocus on getting an education, finding a career and building a life with passion and purpose, being candid about who we are and what we want out of life.