This week, students will be asked to formulate a “Meaningful Work Statement” – a statement that describes how they will use their talents and gifts towards their interests to serve particular audiences, using some type of action to make an impact and/or create change. I would argue that it’s the most important activity in their college career, since this activity will combine the knowledge gained from the previous 7 weeks to construct a statement that describes how they want to serve something bigger than themselves. It’s also the period of time when we have students begin to seriously question their choice of a major.
We start off the class showing one of my favorite videos – Michael Jr.’s “Know Your Why” – https://vimeo.com/169405801. If you asked me what video has impacted my life the most over the past 10 years, this video would rank either #1 or #2. He perfectly illustrates the difference between pursuing a “what” vs. a “why” – in just 3 1/2 minutes. Imagine that it’s a shorter version of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action). Most students pick their major because of “what” it may provide – a job upon completion, security, money, etc. or they have been told to pursue a particular field. Very few choose their major based on their “why” – a major that resonates with their heart and their soul, a major that inspires them to go to class every day. Case in point – how many students change their major at least once in this country? I’ve heard numbers as high as 75%; at my institution, (UNCG), I’ve heard numbers around 60%. Enough said.
After the video, students are giving the Meaningful Work Statement Construction Sheet and Worksheet (meaningful work statement, 9-25-18 and meaningful work statement worksheet, 9-25-18). They are tasks to identify up to three talents and gifts, up to three interests, up to three specific populations they’d like to serve (audiences), up to three different words that define the actions they like to take, and then write one or two statements that define that change they’d like to see and/or the impact they’d like to make.
They’ll list their words on the meaningful work statement worksheet, then choose one or two words from each category to construct a statement that defines how they want to serve. To make the process a little easier for them, we’ve developed a couple of templates, where they can insert their choices of words into the template and come up with a sentence – or they can create their own statement. We also suggest that if they have two distinct areas they’d like to pursue, either based on two distinct audiences or two distinct interests, to create two statements. The templates are:
- Because I have an interest in __________ (interest), I will use my __________ (talents and gifts) to __________ (action) __________ (audience) so that __________ (impact/change).
- My meaningful work is to use my skills in __________ (talents and gifts) to __________ (action) __________ (audience) so that __________ (impact/change), because I have an interest in __________ (interests).
They will have about 30 minutes to complete the activity. Once done, we’ll have them share their statement with the class, with a partner, or just have a few share – depending on the amount of time left in class. We are there to provide help for those who struggle to write the statement, but we have very few instances of students not being able to write at least one statement.
Note: This is also the time when many students, after writing their statement, make appointments for individual meetings because they realize that their current choice of major is NOT aligned with their statement. This is when the fun begins!
Students have shared that this activity really impacted them in a profound way. What was unclear became clear for many. And if you check out the intention statements they shared in Week 1 Introductions (introduction results, 8-16-18), most stated that they wanted to make sure that they are on the right path, in the right major, etc. This activity helps TREMENDOUSLY!
Next week, I’ll show how we use the meaningful work statement to help them get clear about their major – and their path.
P.S. If you have about 14 minutes, check out this amazing TED Talk by Steve Tomlinson: Choose Your Own Adventure: Career – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ_P7col8c0