All too frequently a student will schedule an appointment with a single thought in mind. The student will arrive with a resume in hand in hopes of a quick review before they can begin applying for jobs or internships.

That’s when I ask, “What do you want to do?” Then it gets interesting.

Motivation is far more important than most students realize. As a career counselor, I won’t even look at a resume until I have a conversation with a student about what motivates them. These conversations shouldn’t be intimidating. While bragging and boasting, or considering strengths and weaknesses can make some uncomfortable, personal reflection is critical to find the right direction for each student.

As I learned from my mentor, Dr. Bernard Haldane of the Center for Dependable Strengths, we must look beyond mistakes and weaknesses, and past job titles and majors to find strengths and skills that can be applied across disciplines and fields.

Organizations want to hire people who are in touch with what motivates them and how they can contribute to solving problems and making a profit and/or difference. They want to know about successes and the “fire in the belly” that drove them to achieve positive results.

Before a student can project their motivators to an employer, they must understand themselves better. In Career Services at Stevenson, we start with a personal narrative called Good Experiences that focuses on positive achievements throughout a student’s life. These are markers where the student felt a sincere sense of accomplishment and pride. By discussing these experiences, the key motivators in a student’s life emerge.

Once motivation is understood, a student can easily construct a personal brand that is authentic and engaging. Whether it is at a networking event, a job fair, or in an interview, this realized, motivated identity makes the student increasingly desirable to employers.

Students that feel empowered find opportunities that are a good fit, rather than trying to fit themselves into a box.

In this increasingly fast-paced world, it’s hard to pin down students to conduct this type of reflection. I have found that customized gaming strategies at key events and an online program called Woofound Compass help with this process. It’s important to take time to reflect on our Good Experiences so that we can become our own heroes, innovate in areas of motivated strength, and create a better community.

For more information about programs and career counseling opportunities at Stevenson, contact Career Services at careerservices@stevenson.edu.

Anne Scholl-Fiedler is the Vice President for Career Services at Stevenson University and has more than two decades of collegiate career development experience. Her professional background includes employer and alumni relations, developing collaborative partnerships, and leading strategic development initiatives for university career centers.