Summer: Rest, Reflect, Reset

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 American College Application Campaign newsletter.

White male in button up shirt, standing in front of a bookcaseAs we close out another academic year, the summer brings the opportunity to rest, reflect, and reset. It’s important to build time into our summer calendars for these three Rs, or we risk packing our schedules with other competing activities or tasks. As college access and career advising professionals to young people across the nation, we play a key role in our students’ futures. Students depend on our mental and physical health. They rely on our understanding their needs and those of the community. And they expect that we will spend time learning information and skills to inform our work next year. So, even as we all plan time to rest, consider ways you can carve out time at the beach, in the mountains, or during a staycation to get caught up on some professional reading.

Years ago, I was introduced to a leadership development concept called “70-20-10.” In short, this represents a simple ratio describing how we acquire new information and teach new skills. Seventy percent of our learning and teaching occurs on the job or in the role while training; 20% occurs at professional development conferences; and the final 10% comes from reading articles or books. With that in mind, a little reading this summer might help us learn and grow in our work.

We all have articles, podcasts, journals, and books that we can point to as having helped inform our professional development. There are some that we used to gain college knowledge and/or to better understand career and workforce trends. And there are some that helped us learn about management of programs or teams and leadership competencies. Depending on where we are in our professional journey, we may find we gravitate towards specific authors, thought leaders, or resources. This month, I’m recommending four books and sharing how they shaped my approach to college and career counseling:

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner

This book was published in 2008 at the height of the Great Recession, when I was leading a team of college counselors in Houston. Wagner’s work helped me, as director of college counseling, revise our graduate profile to include the “new world of work and seven survival skills” students needed to be successful in college and beyond. It also helped inform discussions between our curriculum teams and counseling teams to ensure that our schools developed 21st thinkers and leaders.

Catching Up or Leading the Way by Yong Zhao

Published in 2009, Zhao’s research shines a light on the global and digital economy, what this means for the United States education system, and how students from the U.S. fit into both these economies. Zhao reflects on the Chinese education system, discusses the differences offered between the U.S. and Chinese education systems, and their respective effects on students. This book opened my eyes to the emerging economies, and it helped prepare me for conversations about the importance of postsecondary credentials in the digital economy.

The Fuzzy and the Techie by Scott Hartley

This became one of my favorite books. Hartley published his book in 2017 to tell us why he felt the liberal arts will rule the digital world. He is a venture capitalist who previously worked at Google and Facebook. It is a fascinating read that breaks down the role liberal arts play in big data, tech tools, and the future of jobs. This book helped me counsel students that were not confident a liberal arts experience was the right match for them. It also helped me explain to families the return on investment that liberal arts colleges provide to students.

Ready, Willing, and Able by Mandy Savitz-Romer and Suzanne Bouffard

Published in 2012, this book is my primary resource to describe what a successful college and career counseling program needs to include. The authors do a magnificent job framing for school counselors and program managers “a developmental approach to college access and success” which includes both student- and educator-facing competencies. This book became my playbook to build new college counseling programs and to re-engineer legacy college counseling programs to meet my students’ needs.

Although some of the books listed above are more than a decade old, the forward thinking of the authors and researchers makes them relevant today. In fact, much of their research and work describes what we came to witness over the past two pandemic years with technology, big data, global markets, and the education ecosystem where students learn and grow. My hope is that you find time to rest, reflect, and reset along with a book or two because sometimes we must slow down if we want to speed up. Happy reading!