By Adela Penagos, PhD, President
You are probably very familiar with Ryan Lochte’s fabricated tale about being robbed in Rio. While he has recently apologized for leaving details out of his story and has promised to become more mature as a result of this incident, Ryan’s situation reminded me of something I have seen many times in my career. I have reviewed résumés that embellish or exaggerate accomplishments and read essays where it is apparent that the author is not the person submitting the work. The truth comes out sooner or later. Thus, I want to persuade you to always be candid to avoid a situation that could jeopardize your future or put you in a position where you lose the trust of your community.
1. Accurately describe your abilities and degrees.
I have participated in search committees at every institution where I have worked. When candidates exaggerate their abilities, we will inevitably discover this by asking a very specific question on a particular skill set during the interview or by talking to his or her references. Another common area has been the fabrication of educational degrees. Recently, I discovered that someone put on his résumé that he was enrolled in a degree program that has been discontinued for more than two years. Why would someone misrepresent a degree? I have no idea, but a simple Google search, a background check, or a call to the institution where a person is pursuing the so called degree can dispel the mystery. Remember, you can lose a job you have been hired for or miss out on the opportunity to pursue a new career because of dishonesty.
2. Submit your own work.
When I was an academic adviser, I worked very closely with one of my advisees on a personal statement he was going to submit for admissions at several Ivy League schools. Two years later, I was a member of an admissions selection committee at a highly selective institution. As I began reading the personal statement of one of the candidates I was surprised to read, word for word, the statement of my former advisee. You never know who will be reading what you submit. Thus, always submit your own work or you risk being denied admission to a prestigious program, failing a course, facing expulsion, or being fired.
3. Build trust.
The main ingredient in all of our relationships is trust. When we trust someone we can share our innermost feelings and stories and fully rely on this person. The more we share of ourselves the stronger our relationships will be. Therefore, do not destroy a relationship by misrepresenting yourself. Once the trust is gone, it is very hard, and often impossible, to mend a relationship.
As you head to college or into the workforce remember that being candid will pay dividends. You will gain respect from your peers, faculty, supervisors, and your community. You will like yourself more because you will not need to wear masks and many doors will open for you. Get ready to be the best you can be!