At one point in time, obtaining a college degree was almost a guarantee for a good-paying job in this country. In the economy we face today, it is now essential during the college years to focus on obtaining skills that will translate into future career success. One of those skills, says Wake Forest University’s Evelyn Williams, is leadership.
As Vice President for Leadership Development and Professor of Practice, Williams says that to be a leader in any field, a student must know how to motivate others, how to influence outcomes, and how to build relationships. These skills will help build connections and find good job opportunities for young adults after they graduate with their chose major.
At WFU, the leadership and character development curriculum includes training to help teach students how to manage themselves in challenging situations such as during a layoff or when there is conflict between employees. These life-skills go above and beyond “schooling” and are beneficial regardless of career path after college.
“Combining solid academic preparation with significant personal and professional preparation is a powerful tool for helping students find successful paths and is of undeniable value for employers,” says Mercy Eyadiel, Wake Forest’s Executive Director of Employment Development.
St. John’s University offers five essential skills of leadership for college students and those in early career positions in 2008’s Entrepreneur Magazine:
· Establish credibility – “Credibility is about how leaders earn the trust and confidence of their constituents,” notes James Kouzes and Barry Posner. “It’s about the actions leaders must take in order to intensify their constituents’ commitment to a common cause.” Honesty is the most important element of credibility as is open communication.
· Manage time – College students should learn this skill early, as it will be needed to balance the needs of their different classes. Knowing how to best use your time and when to delegate certain tasks is essential to leadership.
· Be Proactive – Leaders are doers. Know what needs to be done for the organization’s or team’s benefit, not for one’s own personal gain.
· Empower others to act – Authoritative management is out; sharing complex tasks with the group is essential to effective management.
· Network – Build and maintain relationships with those who have similar goals and visions.
Classes in leadership are often taught in the Business School of the university. Some colleges even offer a separate degree in leadership, such as Walden University’s MS in Leadership. Because all majors require elective courses outside of the main field of study, college students will benefit from choosing business courses in leadership regardless of the career they hope to have after graduation.