For Students, Inexperience Breeds Overconfidence

I always believe there is more to learn, more to accomplish and work to keep an attitude of ‘expert at nothing.’ Expert implies total understanding which is not really possible in anything. You can always go deeper.

But this is unfortunately not the attitude many students have. As shared in a recent WSJ story titled: College Kids Give Themselves an ‘A’ for Job Readiness, we get a glimpse into the mindset of kids entering the workforce:

Nearly 80% of current college students say they’re “very” or “completely” prepared to put their organization skills to work, just 54% of hiring managers who’ve interviewed recent grads would agree, according to a survey of 2,001 U.S. college students and 1,000 hiring managers.

Students overestimate their abilities by at least 10 percentage points on each of the 11 criteria measured in the survey, according to the findings. And hiring managers and students hold vastly differing views as to whether students are ready to prioritize work, can write clearly or manage projects.

It’s disheartening to see stats like this, because it implies these students are overconfident and think they understand everything they’re going to face in the world. Of course, this may simply be the self-aggrandizing of youth which to some extent always existed. But for these students (or anyone) entering into a new arena, you should go in with an open mind understanding you do not know everything. And this is a good thing.

Our minds are primed and open to take in new knowledge only when we embrace that we are novice (which can also be a huge strength in seeing new ways of doing things). But overconfidence here is damaging as it can lead to closing yourself off to learning.

Additionally, most professionals, artists or creatives (at least that I am friendly with) would never rate themselves an ‘A’ personally in their craft, let alone one they haven’t tried yet. Typically they’ll rate themselves much lower. And the reason isn’t humility, it is a passion to improve, an intense desire to do better. They’re never satisfied — and that’s a good thing.

The full report is below if you’re curious about the specific discrepancies.