4 Indirect Ways Your Education Can Advance Your Professional Prospects

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It’s not exactly a secret that pursuing higher education can have a positive effect on your career prospects. It is for the sake of hopefully landing a good job, making good money, and getting on a meaningful and fruitful professional track that the vast majority of University students sign up for degree programs, after all.

In some cases, this is significantly more evident than in others. If, for example, you are training as an engineer, it’s likely that your future career will be in engineering. If you train as a doctor, it’s just about guaranteed that you’re going to work as a doctor. And if you pursue a location analytics MBA, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that you might have a particular data-driven business role in mind.

But what about the ways in which your education can advance your career, outside of the immediate facts of your degree itself? Is there anything from the experience of attending University that can have a transformative effect on your professional future, irrespective of the clout and know-how afforded you by your degree?

This article will argue in the affirmative. Here are a few indirect ways that a University education can enhance your professional prospects.

By getting you accustomed to good time management habits and being a self-starter

Now, it would be somewhat too much of a stretch to claim that students are inherently good with time management, and are all diligent self-starters. But it is, nonetheless, true that in order to make it through University in a productive way, and to attain a good degree, you will inevitably have to develop good time management skills and become good and self-management and self-motivation.

In this sense, University can be seen as something of a microcosm for life in the wider world of work; and the more in-depth and demanding a particular degree program is, the more these particular — and essential — virtues will be trained and developed.

It would, for example, be very difficult for someone to quality with a good degree in a subject like engineering or law, if they were given over completely to endless procrastination, and were fundamentally incapable of meeting deadlines.

Of course, these skills are just as important as any qualification itself, in terms of helping to assure your success in whatever professional endeavour you might wish to pursue. Psychologically speaking, conscientiousness — a character trait that tracks self-discipline and orderliness — is one of the best predictors of professional success. No serious employer will tolerate an employee who can’t manage their time and meet their obligations well, and no entrepreneur can expect to maintain the trust of his prospective clients by being haphazard.

Any “training ground” that serves to develop your time management skills and inculcates the values of an accountable and productive self-starter, will be of immense value.

By expanding your sense of the interconnectedness of different disciplines

When you explore a subject in-depth in the context of a University degree, you are likely to discover all sorts of nuances about that subject which you hadn’t previously been exposed to. Particularly, you are likely to develop your sense of the interconnectedness, and interdependence of different disciplines.

This is all the more likely to be true if you’re doing a combined degree, or are studying in a context which involves equivalents to the “major-minor” dynamic. But even outside of the specific confines of your degree, simply being in an environment where different disciplines are taught -- and meeting and socialising with people who specialise in different fields — is likely to significantly expand your sense of the interrelatedness of various disciplines.

In the professional world, being able to understand and appreciate the connections between different job roles, and being able to identify the areas where the concerns of one industry overlap with the other, can be immensely useful. Particularly for anyone who aspires to a leadership position, or has a strong entrepreneurial spark.

If nothing else, understanding the contours of your chosen field in this way, will help you to understand how to set leverage resources and skillsets in a mutually complementary way.

By expanding your horizons more broadly and training your lateral thinking skills

Apart from the specific skills and facts you’ll learn through studying for your degree — and through interacting with other people, studying for other degrees — your University experience is almost certainly going to involve a good degree of chaos.

That is to say; you’ll encounter a lot of different personalities. You’ll have the opportunity to explore a lot of different hobbies, via the medium of different student organisations, clubs, and so on.

In this environment, you’ll have to be focused and disciplined, but you’re unlikely to find that being overly rigid and single-minded is an effective strategy.

Instead, this chaotic University environment can force you to expand your horizons more broadly, and can develop your lateral thinking skills. This ability to see things from different angles, and consider previously unexplored potentialities, is key to success in much of business, and in life.

By forcing you to step outside your comfort zone

For many students, going to University to pursue a degree marks a keystone moment in the transition into adulthood. It’s likely to be the first time you are really living away from home and striking out on your own, and you can expect that your academic responsibilities will be significantly greater than they ever have been before.

In addition to this, of course, you also have to contend with the fact of being surrounded by strangers, and having to navigate the complex social dynamics you encounter, while also discovering and distilling the key aspects of who you are, and who you want to be, as a person.

All this is to say that going to University can do a good job of forcing you out of your comfort zone. This is no small matter. Success in any professional endeavour — but especially in entrepreneurial spheres — is largely a matter of the degree to which you’re willing and able to stick your neck out, explore new avenues, expose yourself to danger, and find opportunity amid the chaos.

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