Benefits of Going to CollegeGetting paid well and being happy at work are two common career goals. Attending college could help increase the chances for success in both of these areas, according to studies by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Gallup and Purdue University.

Your earning potential could increase as your education level increases, according to the BLS. In 2013, these were the median weekly earnings by education level:

  • High school graduates- $651 per week
  • Associate’s degree- $777 per week
  • Bachelor’s degree- $1,108 per week
  • Master’s degree- $1,329 per week
  • Doctoral degree- $1,623 per week

Though many people may know that graduating from college could help you earn more money and decrease your chances of being unemployed, the impact that college has on work engagement may not be as common knowledge. 

The relationship between graduating from college and finding a great job and having a happy life was examined in the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index.

Over 30,000 college graduates from across the country were surveyed about their college life and workplace engagement. Using over three decades of research, Gallup was able to ask questions about specific elements that they identified to help predict employee performance.

Gallup found that your chances of being engaged at work are 2.4 times higher if your college really cares about your long-term success and 2.6 times higher if college left you well-prepared for post-college life.

Here are six areas to work on in college to help increase your chances for being engaged in your work after graduation:

Find a Mentor to Encourage You

Mentorship is important, both during college and after graduation. Finding a mentor to encourage you to pursue your dreams can make your chances of workplace engagement 2.2 times higher, according to the study. However, only 22% of the respondents strongly agreed that they had access to such a mentor during college.

If you are not lucky enough to have a mentor yet, seek one out. Just because a college or workplace doesn’t have a formal mentorship program doesn’t mean that you are destined to miss out on the opportunity to learn from one.

Don’t be afraid to approach a trusted professor or professional and ask them to mentor you. Just be specific about what you want, whether it is networking opportunities, career advice or other guidance.

Look for Professors Who Care

About 27% of survey respondents said that their college professors cared about them as individuals. Finding professors who care about you can make you 1.9 times as likely to be engaged at work later.

If you attend college on-campus, ask around to your friends and classmates to see which professors they had positive experiences with. If you attend college online, look for student testimonials or professor interviews to help you.

On-campus and online students can also use sites liked LinkedIn to find alumni of your specific program. Alumni can be very helpful for finding great professors and classes.

Seek Out Professors Who Make You Excited About Learning

Having at least one professor that makes you excited about learning can make you twice as likely to feel engaged at work later, according to the study. Sixty-three percent of respondents had at least one professor who made learning exciting.

Just like looking for professors who care, using recommendations from peers, alumni and online testimonials can help you identify professors that make the classroom especially engaging.

Search for Internships That Let You Apply What You Learn

Getting prepared for life after college may not be easy if you never get the chance to actually try what you learn. Internships that offer hands-on application of your knowledge can help, but only 29% of respondents participated in such a program.

Having positive workplace engagement after college is two times as likely for students who worked on internships that offered practical application of their knowledge, according to the survey.

When interviewing for an internship, remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions about what your duties will be and see if you will get a chance to get some real experience.

Try to Work on a Semester-Long Project

Working on a project that takes a semester or more to complete could help make your engagement 1.8 times higher. About 32% of survey respondents took part in such a project when they were in college.

These longer projects can help you to gain more experience and learn to follow-through over an extended period of time. Many classes offer such projects, but if you can also try creating your own project outside of the classroom.

For example, if you are taking a marketing class, you can turn the lessons into a semester-long project of self-promotion to help you after graduation. When learning to create a website and social profiles for marketing, try making your own for personal branding. Apply each classroom lesson to your own personal project throughout the semester.

Get Active with Extracurricular Activities and Organizations 

Being active in extracurricular activities and organizations can help make you 1.8 times as likely to have positive workplace engagement after college. Twenty percent of respondents said they were extremely active in such groups during college.

Look for groups and organizations that match your interests. Even if you are going to school online, you can find networking groups and professional organizations to participate in.

The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index explains that only 3% of survey respondents had all six of the elements above while in college. Try to embrace these lessons while you’re in college to help you have a fulfilling and engaging long-term career.

For more tips and lessons for landing your dream job, download our free career guide today.

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