Being a Leader in College Will Help You Succeed After Graduation

I went to a formerly all-male college, three years after they started admitting women. The school had a strong athletic program, and boasted a wide variety of highly competitive inter-varsity teams. All of the teams were, of course, male.

A motley crew of women, myself included, banded together to form a women’s basketball team. Encouraged by the university president, we proudly donned the school’s blue and white colors for our first game, merely a year after we formed the team. While we never made it to the top of the league in the four years I played, I like to think we created a legacy for other women in the university to build on.

Here are the lessons I learned from this experience, and how I leveraged them into workplace opportunities after graduation.

Leadership Skills

We were breaking new ground, and no one was there to show us the way. We carved our own path, tackled obstacles as they came hurtling at us, focused on our objectives, and stuck together as a team. I learned that leadership is not just about being in charge, it’s about reaching a goal by working in collaboration.

Holding a leadership position in college looks great on a resume and in job interviews. According to Tara Duggan at Demand Media, employers look for leadership qualities in potential hires because they believe these types of employees “… tend to stay in jobs longer, remain loyal, have fewer absences and have high levels of morale.”

I still find myself relying on the leadership skills I learned (organization, focus, and teamwork) when resolving difficult situations, even in my personal life. After all, the family unit is a type of organization as well. Tough decisions are better made together, with clarity and level-headedness.

Interpersonal Skills

As a student leader, I learned to work well with my peers, as well as with the college administration and long-time members of the university sports staff. My experience taught me how to get along well with colleagues, which benefited me at my first job. I had a productive working relationship with the vice president of the worldwide advertising agency I worked for, as well as with the executives of the multi-million dollar accounts we held.

Good interpersonal skills, much like problem-solving and good writing abilities, are excellent generic skills that are highly transferrable and useful in a variety of jobs and work situations. Smart employers look for these skills in their prospective employees — in addition to the requirements for the open position.

Discipline and Passion

Finding your passion is the easy part. All of the women who formed the team loved playing basketball, but we had to find a way to channel our passion. In order to make up a cohesive team, we had to combine our love for the game with the discipline to practice, take criticism, and develop new skills.

Employers want to see passion and commitment in their new hires, backed by a solid work ethic. Passion without discipline is child’s play; anyone can say they are passionate about something. Passion with discipline gets you into the big leagues — and most importantly — hired.

So go ahead; apply for a leadership position on your campus. It may seem daunting, but it will start you down the path to career success. You will discover that honing your leadership skills, learning to establish a productive working relationship with peers and superiors, and combining discipline with passion may not just land you your first job — it may serve you well for the rest of your life.


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