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Why Work and College are More Similar Than You Think

In the corporate world we sometimes hear our fellow employees reminisce on their glorious college days, “Oh man, I miss college.”

On the other hand, we also hear the criticism;

“Nothing I learned in school applies to my current job.”

As a recent college graduate, and for the timeliness for those who are returning to school this fall, I would like to share with you three reasons I believe work and college are similar, and point out some of the themes and lessons that transcend through both life occasions.

1. Relationships Matter

In both a work setting and a college setting, the people you surround yourself with and embrace as mentors will be invaluable to your success.

One of our core values at LinkedIn is building and maintaining authentic professional relationships. In the workforce having great relationships is key to success, as mentors and colleagues can have a great impact on your career. Whether it’s networking for your next role, or having mentors who provide career advice and guidance, relationships matter.

Similarly, relationships matter in college. Rather than managers or executives, it is professors, counselors or Deans who help guide you through your path to success. For example, having a strong working relationship with your professor, one where you stop at their office hours on a weekly basis, will drive not only a more thriving classroom experience but you have a mentor in academia that will then be in your network for guidance when choosing your major, evaluating your performance or when writing your recommendation for grad school or an internship per say.

2. Results Aren’t Everything

Currently I am part of the Global Sales Org. at LinkedIn, where I am surrounded by top talented go getters. We are extremely numbers driven and we each thrive to go beyond our expected quotas and goals. You can be the top sales person globally but it is custom that when you are up for any promotion you are evaluated by not only performance, but the following: Leadership, Leverage and Results.

In the workforce, great results are often merely part of what is expected of you as an employee. To truly make an impact on the business and be considered outstanding it is vital to be involved in leadership roles such as mentoring, leading best practices workshops, or volunteering on side projects outside of your team, and most of all doing so at scale. We are quickly taught that hitting our quota is not our sole purpose and teller of success.

In college, success traditionally gets evaluated by your academic performance such as your grades, GPA and test scores. Just like in sales hitting your number is only a piece of the pie, having a high GPA isn’t all that matters when it comes to your next play. It is the other involvements you took on as a college student that were outside of studying such as being the president of your student body, a member of Model United Nations debate club or being captain of your sports team that are imperative. When a college graduate applies for their first job, GPA is regularly excluded from their résumé or LinkedIn profile and a candidate is more heavily evaluated by their extracurricular contributions and internship work experiences.

3. Get Involved

There are three main positive impacts of getting involved: it grows your network and builds relationships, it allows you to advance your skill set and lastly, it avoids burnout.

Getting involved in clubs or other opportunities at your work allows you to grow your network and interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t have met, especially at a big company like LinkedIn. For instance, I am involved in an organization called Women At LinkedIn (W@Li) where a group of about ten women meet on a monthly basis to share ideas, articles, books, and videos that could be of interest to professional women. This optional involvement has introduced me to women who have now become great mentors of mine and I otherwise would not have met. An example of this in college can be sports, Greek Life, research studies and clubs which likewise bring together students across campus who might have not met otherwise and as a result form strong college networks and friendships.

Skill development is an additional asset to being involved in side activities. At work additional skills can be gained when working on side projects where you can take on responsibilities in departments that are of interest to you but you don't have much experience in. Another example of gaining skills in the workforce is by developing public speaking skills at an org. like Toastmasters International. In school, the time spent outside of the library allows you to gain additional skills such as leadership by being captain of your sports club per say, or speaking skills by being on the debate team.

Lastly, getting involved avoids burnout. Knowing that there is more to work than the day to day tasks empowers us, energizes us and allows us to see work as something greater and enjoyable. College involvements have the same impact, school is not designed for you to live in the library. Beyond course work, college is for meeting new people, gaining new skills and enjoying one's freedom.


Next time you hear someone say, “Nothing I learned in school applies to my current job,” help them see that college has provided many meaningful teachings beyond just books and lectures. As active thinkers, we can choose to look beyond the institution and continue to practice the patterns that have made us successful, such as building strong relationships, thinking big with our impact and actively participating in and out of our networks.

Have you come across similarities between work and college? I invite you to use the comment section below to share your thoughts.


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