Your Career and You: "I Know I Didn’t Come to Work…What Can I Do for ‘Extra Credit’?"

I just sent out a batch of “academic warnings” to students who, for various and sundry reasons, somehow haven’t found time to come to class after spring break.

For those of you who I haven’t “met” yet, I teach full-time at Curry College where I oversee the Communication Department’s undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses.

I also teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area at Regis College.

The neat thing about this “warning” system at Curry is that the message goes both to the student and to his or her faculty advisor…“You can run, but you can’t hide!”

Awesome responses to my “warnings”!

“I didn’t feel well…and couldn’t email you.”

“I was on vacation and didn’t get back until today.” (Three days after classes resumed)

“I had two sports games that I was playing in and couldn’t come to class.”

“I know I’ve been slacking off…can I do an extra credit assignment to make it up?”

Wow…I’m having this mental image of a few years in the future!

“Mr./Ms. X, you’ve missed three days’ work this week and I didn’t hear anything from you during that period.

I’m so sorry, Mr./Ms. Y. There was an away Red Sox game that I really wanted to see, so I went. I know we had that deadline to meet…What can I do to make it up?”

There seems to be a major disconnect in some folks’ mind about the definition of “responsibility.”

The professional world doesn’t do “extra credit.”

Either the job gets done, or it doesn’t.

Either you meet expectations…

…Or you don’t.

College should be a training ground where you learn to multi-task, where you learn to think and behave like an adult, and where you develop a sense of responsibility…”It’s on my shoulders to make sure this gets done.”

Why? Because employers have an expectation…unreasonable in the eyes of some with whom I’ve chatted…that you will actually do what you have been hired…and have agreed…to do.

And most of the troops with whom I interact get it.

But there are a few who, for reasons known only to them and those who brought them into this world, don’t.

I don’t have a magic answer for this. But I do have a bit of advice.

Grow up.

Because, if you don’t, there will come a time when you will be faced with a “what do I do?” situation. We all encounter those dilemmas.

And you will have to make a decision.

What will it be?

“The identity crisis…occurs in that period of the life cycle when each youth must forge for himself some central perspective and direction, some working unity, out of the effective remnants of his childhood and the hopes of his anticipated adulthood.”
Erik Homburger Erikson, “Young Man Luther” [1958], ch. 3


About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, job hunting, job search, public relations, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Your Career and You: "I Know I Didn’t Come to Work…What Can I Do for ‘Extra Credit’?"

  1. I've heard the "extra credit" question as well. Since I've only been teaching for four years, I checked with my department head on that (as I do on most questions when I'm in doubt) and she just about bust her girdle laughing. I mean… seriously?!


  2. You absolutely HAVE to love it! Not sure what they envision as "professional conduct," but there definitely is a disconnect…and every semester brings me a new version!Thanks for reading and commenting, Shonali!


  3. Erika says:

    I believe the only people that deserve extra credit are those who try and actually put effort into getting their work accomplished. If someone still comes up short in the end because maybe it's just not what they're great at, they should get a chance to boost their scores/grades, etc with extra credit. I have no tolerance for slackers…


  4. Lee says:

    I believe that if students are doing what they're supposed to be doing from the outset, and taking advantage of the additional resources, extra credit isn't necessary. The other side of that is that I just don't have the time to create and grade extra assignments. As a part-time instructor, my schedule is quite regimented and, as such, I expect my students to be as mindful of my time as I am of theirs.When I've asked my Chair about extra credit, she reminds me that it a form of grade inflation and gives the students a false sense of their abilities. There is no extra credit in the real world, and as more students clamor to get more for their education dollars, I think it's only fair to treat them that way.I don't mean to sound harsh, but I have a foot in both worlds, and what I see as "quality" work from students these days scares me.


  5. For those who don't know me, I am a rookie guest speaker to Curry's MBA'ers. I have been in management for the past 37 years, executive management for the past 20 years. First, bravo to Prof Hazlett's comments. It scares me/amazes me when I talk to recent grads regarding their expectations when they graduate and are looking to interview for a job.Company time-off and break time policies should not be the first questions you ask when you have an interview. At the risk of sounding discouraging, I hope you all understand just how difficult it is to even get an interview. Remember, you are competing against former employees who were laid off from that same company as well as other former employees from competing institutions.We can have hundred's of applicants for one opening. My hiring managers are not just interested in your technical background. They are much more interested in you as a person and how our company will benefit by hiring you.We can teach you our trade. We can't teach you your self discipline or work ethics. I am sure there are mornings you don't feel like going to some 8AM class. Well there are plenty of mornings I don't feel like getting up at 3:30 AM to catch a 6 AM flight. But I do since that is part of my DNA.The self discipline you can teach yourself now, will help you immensely in your future years.


  6. Nor do I, Erika. I've always believed you get rewarded for going above and beyond (State Street Corporation actually has an award called that, and it's given to employees who EXCEED expectations of their position) in their efforts.Thanks very much for reading and commenting!


  7. Thanks, Lee. I think what you're saying is "establish clear expectations and stick to them."I give "extra credit" assignments to my classes, but the "assignments" are always directly tied to what I'm teaching and are outside the textbook.For example, I urge/encourage students to attend PR Student Association meetings on campus and write reports on what they've learned. Some of those who do so (not all, and I don't expect 100%) come to the realization that this "PR stuff" is actually quite interesting and challenging, and they then choose to declare a Public Relations concentration…a "win" for my program…a "win" for Curry College in that the student has found something that truly does resonate with him or her and will stay with us for the full four years…and a "win" for the student for much the same reason.Thanks very much for your quite thoughtful and helpful (for me…I'm always learning!)…feedback! Best of luck with your own teaching efforts!


  8. Awesome! Thanks VERY much, Doug, for such wonderful insight into "life after graduation"!That's the one thing I try diligently to instill in students' minds…that it's NOT all about them anymore. They might have been the star athlete or BMOC in school; they're another minnow in the pond after graduation.Your hours are worse than mine! I'm up at 4:45 AM Mon-Wed-Fri as the start of my day…and down around midnight…like you, in my DNA.I'll have to check with Bill Topper for the next time you're speaking to the MBA students…would love to hear your remarks and meet you!


  9. Kirk, this all sounds too, too familiar, and I will be sharing this post with my classes. This semester, I'm also getting complaints about the class being too early (9am), and I have to wonder what will happen to some of them when they start working.I don't offer extra credit, and I am seriously considering not accepting late papers anymore. I do penalize lateness, but as we know, there aren't many extensions in the real world, so better to start learning that now.I love my students, but it is frustrating when they don't live up to their end. It is difficult to instill a sense of responsibility, but I haven't given up yet!


  10. Thanks very much for the realistic picture, Amy. I face many of the same dilemmas every day.Once had a student who habitually walked into class 10-15 minutes late. One day I finally lost it and chewed her out, asking "where do you live?"She pointed out the window across the 50-foot quad to her dorm on the opposite side…Fortunately, there are enough NOT like this one to help soothe the frayed nerves!Thanks for reading and sharing!


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