Helping Students Develop Emotional Intelligence for Career Success  

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Career SkillsMental HealthStudent Success
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sure, IQ plays an important role in academic and career success. But what about EQ, aka emotional quotient, aka emotional intelligence? It turns out, college students with higher emotional intelligence have an advantage, in and out of the classroom.

Studies show that emotionally intelligent students not only get better exam results but are more likely to thrive once they enter the workforce. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 71 percent of employers said they value emotional intelligence over an employee’s IQ, while 75 percent stated they were more likely to promote an employee with high emotional intelligence over one with a high IQ.

This says it all. EQ is just as, if not more, valuable than IQ.

It’s great news for all those students who already have emotional intelligence, but what about the students with lower EQs? In better news, while emotional intelligence might not come naturally to some, it can be developed and improved over time.

As you know, the ability to achieve depends on willingness, grit and mindset.

Getting to Know Emotional Intelligence

The first step in improving emotional intelligence is understanding what it is and why it’s important.

Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to recognize, understand and manage emotions. It includes five key skills:

Self-awareness: recognizing your emotions and how they affect your actions and behavior

Self-regulation: managing your emotions, controlling your behavior and adapting to change

Self-motivation: sustaining your personal drive to learn and commitment to achieve

Empathy: understanding others’ feelings and points of view

Social skills/social awareness: picking up and reading other people’s emotions and feelings

Understanding Why EQ Matters

The benefits for students with emotional intelligence go far beyond getting good grades or becoming a top job candidate. Emotional intelligence equips students to effectively cope with stress, solve problems, handle challenges, communicate with others and build relationships.

Those with high emotional intelligence are 7x as likely to be effective leaders. And if that’s not convincing enough, according to Chartwell, emotional intelligence can even lead to better mental health, social health and overall well-being.

Boosting Emotional Intelligence 101

With work, students can develop their emotional intelligence skills on their own. But as an instructor, you can cultivate their emotional intelligence by adding some EQ training techniques in the classroom, too.

Here are some EQ-improving strategies that both you and your students can put into action, right away:

Take Note

Students can keep a journal to track their emotions, behaviors and responses and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Don’t Judge It, Name It

By identifying or naming emotions when they happen (without judgement), students can become more self-aware over time.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Have students practice effectively communicating, actively listening and confidently accepting feedback without becoming defensive. Make healthy discussions a regular part of your course and ask students to share feedback on each other’s work as part of their coursework.

Offer Guidance

It’s probably no surprise that mentoring can play an important role in developing and growing emotional intelligence. A mentor provides support, holds their mentees accountable and makes sure their mentees are progressing.

Become a mentor or suggest a mentor you know students will trust. Also consider facilitating a peer-to-peer mentoring program, where students can learn from each other.

Lead by Example

Pay attention to your responses to students. Show empathy in the classroom and create an inclusive environment where all students can engage.

One thing is clear, no matter how emotionally intelligent a student may seem, they can always enhance their skills. Embracing continuous improvement allows them to stay passionate and avoid stagnation, maintain healthy relationships and be ready for change. As Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.”

Developing and growing emotional intelligence isn’t easy. It takes practice and patience, but it’s worth the effort. Emotional intelligence helps students succeed in college, in work and overall, in life.


Written by Colleen Zajac, a Senior Copywriter at Cengage with a zest for learning. She loves rock climbing, mountain biking and coffee—not necessarily in that order.


Improving emotional intelligence helps students become career ready. Find even more ways to teach them the skills employers want with this peer-tested tips sheet.