As children, we’re conditioned to love it when we see an A on the top of our paper. As we grow, this trend continues with schools assigning not only letters but numbers to our academic performance, causing high school and college students everywhere to stress, cry, and spin over the idea of getting perfect grades in the form of a 4.0 GPA. But is a 4.0 really indicative of a graduate’s skill or intelligence? Experts in career development and job search around the world are answering a resounding “no” and even Harvard’s student paper is publishing articles on how GPA does not define you as a student or as a graduate in the job search.
If you’re one of those people who is obsessed with graduating summa, magna, blah blah blah, you might be saying, “Wait a minute here, I worked years and years for nothing at all?” Don’t feel that way. GPA is one way employers might measure your likelihood to succeed in the workforce. But it’s just that – only one way. And rather than focusing all of their efforts on a 4.0, students should focus more on the following aspects of their pre-workforce experience:
- Internships. You can spend all your time with your nose in a book to achieve that 4.0, but what’s more impressive to employers is that you were able to maintain decent grades while at the same time completing relevant internships to your field. Look for internships that might set you up for success in the future, or could potentially lead to a full-time job after graduation. Advertising agencies, for instance, are famous for hiring interns after graduation.
- Alumni relationship building. All that time in the library might mean you’re meeting a lot of dead poets, but you’re not meeting living alumni who could potentially help in your job search. Even if you have a 3.1 GPA, employers will be impressed by impressive references more so than your A in physics.
- Practical application in your field. If you’re studying marketing and looking for a job, employers will be impressed if they see you have an active and professional social media persona. Spend time prior to graduation networking on LinkedIn, building a Twitter following, etc. Sure, it might take some time away from your studies, but it might just land you a job. These kinds of practical applications can be found in any field. Put time into them and work hard at it.
- Travel and culture. Whether you’re spending time abroad or just doing a summer internship in another town, employers love to see that you’re interested in other cultures and are well-traveled. It will give them more confidence in your ability to talk to others and build relationships in new situations more than any 4.0 ever could.
So stop worrying so much about your GPA if you’re in school, and if you’ve left school with a terrible GPA, really, when was the last time anyone ever asked for it? Probably never. And that will likely continue. GPA isn’t everything.