Strategies to help students establish an identity and stand out from the crowd

March 9, 2022

Here are some tips for educators to help students establish an identity and stand out from the crowd.

How do you encourage teens to stand out from the crowd, when there’s so much internal pressure to blend in? Adults remember those conflicting feelings during high school. You want to be valued as an individual, but you also want to be accepted by your peer group. 

Part of human development is learning and accepting that sometimes conformity holds us back from living up to our potential. 

When it comes to college applications and job interviews, students need to demonstrate what makes them a good fit. They have to stand out from other applicants. 

Educators and advisors can help teenagers establish an identity that includes a sense of self-worth and value. Here is some guidance that other mentors have shared with success.

Be curious and open-minded.

Impress on students the value of letting their mind meander on a path to self-discovery. They’ll probably need some direction from you, so they aren’t staring at a blank search bar on their browser. 

A young learner won’t know about the markets for abstract art, video game screenwriting, or home inspection unless they’re introduced. And every year, more potential interests open up that educators could not have predicted (e.g. crypto mining). 

Curiosity needs to include asking questions, ideally asking someone with demonstrated experience in the area of interest. 

Consider your natural abilities.

What does this student think they’re good at? What do other people think this student is good at? Too often, advisors overlook natural abilities and jump right to “here’s what’s available.” 

Help students match their innate abilities with different types of work. Some are inclined to be analytical and process-driven, others are bursting with creativity, and still others are natural leaders. Don’t fall in the short-term thinking trap, but rather promote the idea of finding personally fulfilling work.

Stay close to the topics you love.

Sometimes it makes sense to take a job because it’s an income. But in this period of a learning journey where young people are thinking about their path following high school, be idealistic. In the context of work, that means love what you do

When we’re young kids, every day has the promise of fun and excitement. When we’re adults, we act like work shouldn’t be fun. You’re encouraging students at a wonderful time in their life. Help them keep their dreams big and bright!

Practice being assertive.

It’s hard for adults to give students options to say No. But it’s an important part of their development. To be clear, being assertive is about confidence, not aggression or disrespect. 

Amy Morin, Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind, has this to say:

A teen who can speak up also is less likely to be treated poorly by peers. They’ll speak up for themselves when they don’t like how they’re being treated, and they’ll be able to ask for what they need in a direct manner.

Set boundaries.

Studies consistently show the vast majority of Americans are unhappy at work. Sometimes it’s as high as 85%. Students can do a lot to avoid an unhappy work experience if they set boundaries for themselves. 

Introverts might do well to avoid roles that require regular networking and public speaking events. Extroverts might do well to avoid roles that require long hours at an isolated computer. The point is not to pass judgment, but to understand what types of jobs will be exhilarating versus exhausting. 

1 Comment

on Strategies to help students establish an identity and stand out from the crowd.
  1. […] Now it’s time for job and college applications. High school juniors and seniors start to panic when they realize how much work organizing and summarizing their experience is. What have they done for the last four years? What did it all mean? For the last few decades, students only have grades and test scores to show for all those years of the learning journey. […]