College students have always worried about their transition from the classroom to the workforce—that's nothing new. But there’s no denying that they face more challenges than ever, living amid a global health crisis and a negatively impacted job market. All this just as they prepare to enter the workforce.
Now, students' typical pre-graduation worry is compounded with fears that some may not graduate in time due to pandemic-related disruptions such as campus shutdowns, job loss, or financial hardships.
A Gallup poll taken in December 2020 revealed that nearly half of the nationally enrolled students pursuing bachelor's degrees (49%) feel it's likely COVID-19 will impede the completion of their degrees. The poll further showed that 56% of students pursuing their associate’s degree felt the same way.
Even with that not-so-rosy perspective, there are reasons to remain optimistic. Research indicates that many students still believe they will thrive in the workforce and land their dream job after completing their degree. And, as leading economists predict a post-pandemic employment boom, many students have realized they need to continue developing skills to stand out among their peers.
Along those same lines, we at the NSLS wanted to determine how our leadership development program prepared our members for success. Here’s what we found.
Learning Outcomes Before and After NSLS Leadership Program
To analyze the effectiveness of our leadership program and our educational approach, we collected data before and after students completed our program in collaboration with Social Research Lab. What we found out was amazing!
First, we already knew one of the challenges we were going to face. NSLS members are high achievers. They are not your typical college student. Instead, they have met specific membership criteria and have demonstrated exemplary leadership skills, which is why they were nominated in the first place.
This is one reason why our pre-assessment survey determined that members were already confident in their abilities—before starting our program. However, we wanted to know how our program would impact these already high achievers. The results show that the NSLS program takes good students and makes them great:
5 ESSENTIAL LEARNING OUTCOMES
Each of the five learning outcomes in the image are some of the interpersonal skills that employers seek in new employees. This is why our leadership program emphasizes their development.
#1: Verbal Communication Skills
We asked our survey participants how much they agreed with this statement: I have a good understanding of effective verbal communication.
We found NSLS members were confident about their verbal communication skills, as 85.5% of those surveyed replied that they either Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the statement.
However, through our five-step program, that result jumped to 94.7%. This jump is because of the emphasis the NSLS program places on communication through the various stages, especially during the Success Networking Teams (SNTs).
These SNTs, even when held virtually, facilitate students' significant personal growth in strategic planning, collaborative communication, verbal skills, and goal setting, which is why it is such a key component of our Foundations of Leadership program. It’s also why many members say that this is the most important part of their NSLS experience.
#2: Personal Strengths and Growth
For this question, we asked participants to rate if they agreed with the following statement: I can name my personal strengths and areas for growth.
This is an important part of our programs, as being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses is the first step in setting realistic goals. This is one reason why we place so much emphasis on setting SMART goals as well.
Again, we found that our high achiever members were confident in this area. 82.8% said they Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the statement. But that number jumped 15% for those who completed the program to 95.6%.
#3: Goal Motivation
Many NSLS members are ambitious and have set goals for themselves. That’s one reason why they were successful enough to earn their nomination in the first place. It’s also why 83.7% Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the following statement before completing our program: I am capable of motivating myself to accomplish goals.
This number didn’t surprise us. However, our five-step program emphasizes finding a true passion, setting a goal to achieve it, and mapping out the steps needed to accomplish it. We also use the SNTs to develop strong relationships between members to hold each other accountable.
With these factors layered throughout the program, 94.7% of inducted members, or those who complete our program, Agreed or Strongly Agreed with that statement.
#4: Personal Growth - Inclusion
Our mission at the NSLS is to “Build Leaders Who Make a Better World.” Part of that is sharing the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is why we asked members how much they agree with: I can often identify with new people and find common ground with people who are different than me.
This didn’t have to be race or gender. Instead it could be from a different economic standing or from a different part of the country or even the world.
At the beginning of the program, 75.8% of members Agreed or Strongly Agreed with that statement. After learning about their communication style and those of others, collaborating with their peers in SNTs, and learning from thought leaders in our Speaker Broadcasts, the responses from members who complete our program increased 16% to 88.1% who Agreed or Strongly Agreed.
#5: Defining Life Goals
Finally, we asked members to share how much they agree with this statement: I know how to define goals and a vision for my life.
While similar, this is different from the third question because it is much more far-reaching. In essence, we’re asking members if they have a vision for their life and know the steps to achieve it, which is a daunting question for anyone, let alone a college student.
Before starting our program, 77.5% of members Agreed or Strongly Agreed with this statement. After completing the program, 96.1% of those same members Agreed or Strongly Agreed with this statement.
This 24% increase represents significant personal growth in the strategic planning of their goals, which is one of the key elements of our program. We’re teaching members to be intentional about the decisions they make and always have a long-term vision in mind.
During the anonymous survey, one student said, “My most significant learning experience taken away from this program definitely had to be the formations of goals and implementing them into my life.” And another said, “I will apply my learnings by finding my purpose and creating a vision of what I want to do with my life. By finding myself, I will be able to be a better leader.”
IMPACT OF LEARNING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
Measuring NSLS programs and curriculums' positive impact reveals an overall bright outlook for students. These results are more than just numbers and percentages. The impressive findings indicate the value of the five-step Foundations of Leadership program, as we teach students the elements of being an effective leader, such as how to:
- Communicate effectively
- Build relationships
- Set goals and achieve them
- Create a vision for their lives
- Find a common ground with others
These results are overwhelmingly good news and reveal that NSLS members have maintained a commitment to their professional development, better positioning themselves for the post-pandemic job market. In accordance, they feel that choosing to accept their nomination will enhance their education and better prepare them for the workforce.
DISCOVER THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING AN NSLS MEMBER
As we expected, NSLS members were very confident in their skills before starting our program. Overwhelmingly, they felt they were strong communicators, knew how to set goals, and knew how to connect with others.
What we found is that our five-step program enhances those skills and helps take our members to the next level, further separating them from their peers as they prepare for life after college, whether that’s entering the workforce or attending graduate school.
And though current students face a unique set of challenges, many (especially NSLS members) are looking for ways to continue growing. Organizational psychologist, bestselling author, and Motivational Mondays guest Adam Grant labels it as "Post-traumatic growth." He explains the survival mindset as "the sense that, I wish this didn't happen but, given that it happened, I feel like I am better in some way. It might be a heightened sense of personal strength; it could be a deeper sense of gratitude; it could be finding a new meaning or investing more in relationships."
Whatever it is, NSLS members will be at the forefront, leading the way.
*Pre-assessment results are compiled of new NSLS member data at the start of their Foundations of Leadership training. Post assessment results are compiled by inducted members after program completion.