The One Word that Hurts Students the Most

Photo Credit: Jonathan Jones, The Photo Jones

Photo Credit: Jonathan Jones, The Photo Jones

The single biggest change students can make to move their careers forward quickly is to stop calling themselves students.

Being a student often limits what young people think of themselves and their own capabilities. There is an understanding that if you are a student you are only learning, not actually doing. By standard definitions, being a student requires no action.

I looked the definition up on Google: Student (n.) – a person who is studying at a school or college. It denotes someone who is studying in order to enter a particular profession. A person who takes an interest in a particular subject.

So, you’re a student. That means you’re interested in some field and study it from an academic perspective. Boring.

And we wonder why “students” have a hard time getting hired?

Why would a company want to hire a person that spent four years only studying a profession?

Students have to stop tacking their desired field on to the word “student” as an adjective (ie. Management student). We ought to consider our fields (ie. Marketing, Entrepreneurship, etc.) to be verbs. Seeing your major as a verb inspires and requires action. You better actually go do something.

Yes, you’re still studying as you go. Yes, you’re probably going to make more mistakes because you won’t know all the theory yet (if that helps anyway). Yes, you’re going to feel embarrassed, bewildered, lost, exhausted and humiliated at times because you will be working with people that have decades more experience than you.

But at least someone will want to hire you when you walk off the stage at graduation.

Today, we’re getting rid of the word student for one reason. How you speak about yourself matters.

By changing your words, eventually your actions will follow. Stop calling yourself a student and you’ll begin seeing yourself as more than a student. Eventually, you will begin to believe you can actually do something competitive with other professionals.

You won’t be at their level immediately. You should be learning your entire life. Just don’t let all of your learning come from books and a classroom.

The biggest problem students have today is the idea that the designation of “student” somehow means that your only job for four years is to go to class and work at a restaurant to be sure you don’t incur too much debt along the way. No one wants to hire you for being a student for four years. “Completing college” isn’t remarkable anymore.

Entrepreneurship students, go build. Marketing students, develop marketing materials and go sell something. Computer science students, develop and ship a product.

Action:

1. Throw “student” out the window.

2. Feel nauseous for a while.

3. Get to work.

Comments

  1. Jessica Florea says

    Great post! Never knew you were a writer. And on top of that, your style of writing -I like! Way to go Ben!

    • Ben R McIntyre says

      Thanks, Jessica! I used to “hate” writing when I was younger, but was always told I was good at it. I really started to understand that in high school, and had the opportunity to start writing more about nine months ago. I love it now!

  2. says

    Ben,

    You’re totally right & hitting all the topics nobody wants to talk about. It’s time we stop talking about it & be about it. Don’t wait till we have a degree in our field before we get in our field.

    You rock. Great post.

    Your friend,

    Mark Giannulis

    • Ben R McIntyre says

      Mark – just speaking the truth and calling some things how I see them! Many students don’t even know they need to be out ‘doing the work’. We have to get more students out doing, but that may start with letting them know they need to do go… hence the post. Thank you for reading!

  3. Austin Parvin says

    Loved it man! very motivational and introduces a concept I had not thought on before!

  4. says

    Ben – I couldn’t agree more. As my oldest child finishes his Junior year of high school, and begins looking seriously at colleges, this idea of ‘working’ and doing more than simply studying, is important. I’m going to have him read this, and pass it around to his friends. Great thoughts. Keep it up.

    • Ben R McIntyre says

      Thanks for the kind words, Rick! It’s crazy that students need to start that early now, but they do. Whatever it is, it has to be something he loves and it should still allow time for other fun so he doesn’t burn out. The coolest part of this, though, is how much doing something while a student is still in schools sets him/her apart, whether high school or college. Companies want to hire people with a track record of execution and willingness to put in the work.

      Thanks for sharing it, too!

  5. Kara says

    My issue with this is that while students of some majors have the opportunity to go out and “do something,” not everyone has that ability. For instance, there are a billion business/communications/computer science majors out there being offered so as long as you apply to a bunch then you’re likely to get one. Science majors, however, are extremely limited in what internships are available and the ones that are available are often so selective that its hard to compete. Its not like they can just go “do something” when the equipment they would need costs more than they will likey ever be able to afford.

    • Ben R McIntyre says

      Hey, Kara! I certainly understand where you are coming from. My Twin brother is a conservation biology major and I know traditional internships in science are rare. I think a key designation is that “doing something,” doesn’t have to mean doing an internship. In fact, the students that really set themselves apart are the ones that go do something without an internship.

      For me, as an entrepreneurship major, this means starting my company as a Junior. For marketing majors, that could mean developing marketing materials for another company’s products and getting sales orders for their product for them (Not sure if that is legal, but the CEO of that company would be foolish to not hire a student that bold.).

      For my Twin, as a scientist learning about conservation, he has multiple certifications in wilderness medicine, outdoor guide training, etc. With that additional information under his belt, he is out right now on a 740 mile canoe trip (mostly by himself – Twin is pretty rad) through New England to write a paper/book about the canoe trail he is on so that others can more safely duplicate his trip. It will include research, maps, journals, experiences and do’s and don’ts to enable others to follow him.

      Remember, your research doesn’t have to lead to some big new break through as an undergrad student. For example, say my company fails in 6 months, I’ll still have started it and learned from the experience and I’ll start another after that in the same field because I’ll be better educated on the market, what works and what doesn’t work. For the record, I’ve got no expectation of a failure coming.

      Could you consider something along those lines? Could you do research on your own, separate from your classes? Does your school allow you access to any materials if you want to explore something on your own?