Though college graduates met the academic requirements necessary to receive a diploma, when it comes to the big six, Gallup has found wide variation in the quality of the undergraduate experience. There are also considerable differences in how graduates fare in their engagement after they enter the workplace. Though we don’t know whether the big six college experiences cause graduates to be engaged, there is nonetheless a strong relationship between these experiences in college and workplace engagement after college. In other words, though all graduates come with a diploma, there are substantial differences in how well-equipped each is for success in the workplace.
Experiencing engagement. Why might these experiences in college matter to a student’s workplace engagement after college? Supportive relationships with professors and mentors—and deep learning and experiential opportunities, such as internships and long-term projects that mimic real work environments—may help students develop a clearer sense of what they do best. These experiences also may help them understand and discern the qualities of an engaged workplace or a great manager and build graduates’ self-efficacy as they learn how they can shape their workplace environment.
A close look at the Gallup-Purdue Index data in the graph below shows an encouraging trend: As the number of big six experiences increases, engagement increases. Among graduates who didn’t have any of the big six experiences, 25% were engaged on average. But among graduates who had all six of the key experiences, 65% were engaged.
But as the graph also shows, employers pay graduates the same salary on average, regardless of the number of big six experiences they had. Now, if you are an employer looking to hire someone— and you had the opportunity to hire employees who have the potential to be more engaged and productive—wouldn’t you want a way to identify candidates like that?
There are both simple and more sophisticated ways to find out whether candidates had any of the big six experiences. Unfortunately, these experiences don’t necessarily show up on resumes or in academic transcripts. Hiring managers can see what courses graduates took, what they majored in, what their grades were and perhaps whether they had an internship or not.
But hiring managers can’t learn from a resume about the nature of the relationships candidates had with their professors, the qualitative learning connections they made in an internship or the depth and meaning they gave to—and got from—their extracurricular activities. These are critically important nuances to understand and they don’t appear in a typical resume or transcript, nor are they asked about in a typical job interview today.
Looking beyond grades, test scores and resumes. Given that a full 25% of all college graduates in the U.S. missed the mark on all of the big six experiences, it seems that higher education institutions and students aren’t optimizing the college experience. It also seems that employers aren’t optimizing their hiring of college graduates.
Perhaps these missing experiences explain why only 11% of C-level executives strongly agree that college graduates have the skills and competencies their business needs. It’s time for us all to dig beneath the surface of resumes, grades and test scores and look to the elements that matter most to workplace success.