Everyone knows you’re supposed to study hard when you’re at college so that you can get good grades. Take notes. Attend class. Write papers. Study. Study. Study.
Well, what if I told you that this might be sabotaging your career prospects?
A lot of students have a real single-minded focus on grades. I get it. I was pretty obsessed with getting an 85.00% average during my undergrad as this meant my next year of tuition was free (now you want to know where I studied, right!?). But the thing is that it wasn’t going to make much difference to an employer interviewing me whether I got a 75%, 80%, or 85% average. What they did care about is what else I had done. What role had I played on the student association? What volunteer experience had I gained? What languages had I learned while studying abroad?
Want to become a more well-rounded candidate, and person? Here are just a few ideas to consider:
- Internships – Don’t think internships only take place in the summer. Even a few hours a week can be amazing experience – and you have a lot less competition from other students when you’re applying.
- Volunteer work – All volunteer work is great, but use it strategically and it can really help with your career. Serving food at a soup kitchen is great, but think from an employers’ perspective and compare that experience with say, organizing a major fundraising event and raising $10k for a local charity.
- Travel and languages – Take your travel to the next level by doing a language immersion program or getting involved in the local community.
- Clubs and student associations – Don’t just pay your dues and then list your membership on your resume. Get involved and take on a real position.
- Skills – Learn a really popular skill or computer program, like PowerPoint or Excel. Don’t want to take a course? There are other ways too, for example, helping a Professor with his/her research to learn SPSS.
Not only will you gain really valuable experience to add to your resume, you’ll have a lot of great material for interviewing, a broader network, and probably a few people who could serve as references.
It’s easy to become fixated on GPA when you’re in the bubble that is college – professors, friends, parents… they all reinforce it. Of course grades matter. But the time required to make the difference between getting a good and a great GPA might be better spent invested in other experiences.