As you may know, I have the great honor of teaching for a major university in a special program to re-launch young managers who have not been successful in their careers. Either their jobs have simply gone away, they’ve been eclipsed by someone better prepared or somehow just not made the inroads they needed to get ahead. With this history, you can see what the adult learners are very motivated. Even better, through our program, the learners are given access to new fields, that have been carefully researched to assure that there ARE jobs available with strong career paths, and employers ARE hiring in these areas. And, there is exemplary, new academic curriculum plus career support, academic support and carefully chosen instructors.
I am not only an instructor, I created the curriculum and course content for the course I am teaching. I develop fresh, of-the-moment material: often preparing lectures and assignments from breaking news in marketing (where there is a lot of breaking news right now). Then, I tie the news into classical and contemporary research and approaches. It all boils down to a fantastic multi-media instructional design, where I develop a short film and narrate it. The students then have an assignment.
I review the assignment, and give extremely detailed feedback. Most critical to me is mastery. So, when the students don’t do well, I give them the opportunity to revise their work or start anew. Then, I review that, give feedback and sometimes still need to give them time for a third revision. If you were preparing surgeons to operate for the first time: this is what you would do. That’s my intention. I want these students inarguably well prepared, so they get the job they want and they succeed.
This only works if the student is prepared to learn.
I am surprised to find that is the toughest part of the work. The material itself is challenging. But, it’s what students do with the feedback that can be devastating to their chances of success.
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Defensiveness and drama is a career killer. Because it puts up cognitive barriers, virtually freezing the brain like a Dairy Queen Blizzard inhaled, not savored.
Who are you? I have two students that received just about the same feedback from me. I went into their answers, and carefully dissected where they had gone wrong – gave them more direction and the opportunity to take another cut at the assignment.
Here’s response one, from Katie.
“Thank you for your feedback. I plan on redoing the assignment and will get it in to you by the end of the day. Thank you for a second chance at it.”
Pretty much what I expect from an adult learner. It was so professional to send a note to apprise me of what she was going to do. And, it was lovely that she expressed appreciation for the opportunity to not fail just because she didn’t get it right the first time. That’s why I love teaching at this level: mastery is the goal.
Here’s response two, from Brenda.
“I am baffled as to the teacher/student disconnect we have developed. I have not had this problem in any other course in this. I would like very much for this to be the case with your course, but I do not know how to salvage this impending train wreck.”
To sum up my feelings about Brenda? She makes my heart ache. I wish I could help her, but her problem is greater than my ability to teach.
The point here is: which one would be you? Are you in it to win it? Are you glad for the opportunities that your boss, mentor, teacher, colleague or whomever gives you to improve your work and your career?
Or, are you angry because learning is not an easy process? Does learning scare you?
You may never have the opportunity to get this much feedback or the opportunity to revise the work you turn in for your job. But, when you do: embrace it. Don’t let any emotion: fear, pride or umbrage undermine the chance to be the best personal brand you can be.
Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen