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The Concept of Mattering – Why It’s Important to College Students

Working with college students and new grads daily running Career Onward, a personalized career advisory company, we knew that mental health and support play significant roles in the transition outcomes from college to a career. Yet, we also understood there was more to it – we had more to learn.

I wasn’t familiar with the concept of Mattering until listening to an interview by Mattering expert Gregory Elliott, Pd.D., Professor of Sociology at Brown University. Listen to the full interview here. (https://motivislearning.com/insights/gregory-elliott-interview/. We now realize that Mattering is a key component to this successful college to career transition.

 

Excerpts from the Interview with Gregory Elliot, Ph.D.

What is Mattering?

Mattering is the understanding that, in any of a variety of ways, you make a difference in the world around you. It’s kind of like the obverse notion of significant other. So if a significant other is someone who makes a difference in your life, the question of mattering is whether you make a difference in anybody else’s life.

3 Types of Mattering

There are three different kinds of mattering, all of which are important. The first one is very basic, very fundamental, and I call it awareness. It is basically the question of whether you can capture other people’s attention. So when you walk into a room, do people at least look up and notice that you’ve come in? If you say something, do people acknowledge that they heard it? Can people put a name to your face? It’s a basic notion that I am not socially invisible.

Then there are two other kinds of mattering that are more relationship-oriented. The first one is called importance. With importance, it’s a matter of; do you recognize that people invest in your welfare? So for example, if something really good happens to you, does anyone else care? Or on the other side, if you have a really bad day, is there someone you can lean on because they’ll take the time to be with you? The question is whether people will take some of their precious resources, including time, and spend it on you because they want to improve your welfare.

The last one is the kind of reverse of importance and I call it reliance. That is, do people come to you with their wants and needs? Do people ask your advice about any problem that they might be having? Do people want your opinion on social and political issues? Do people turn to you when they’re having a bad time?

 

Improving College to Career Outcomes

Since parents still play the largest role in the college to career transition, I hope through education, parents can better understand Mattering as it relates to their son or daughter. Better yet, my wish is that every college student would understand the three different kinds of Mattering and support their friends and fellow students during one of the most difficult life transitions they will make.

As we know, it takes much more than strong academics and robust skills for student to acquire “right fit” jobs and companies.  Mattering matters.