Why Your GPA Is The Greatest Lie They’ve Ever Told You

There are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. The only similarity among them is that you can receive a fancy piece of paper with a fancy signature for an absurd amount of money (the bottom of the barrel piece of paper still comes at a price tag of nearly $4,000).

I want to stress that this is the only similarity. Some have athletic teams, some don’t. Some have Greek life, some don’t. Some have liberal arts degrees, some don’t. Some have bagpiping degrees, some don’t. Actually, only one school has a bagpiping program, but it was too cool not to mention.

You want to know what isn’t similar among a single one of them? The way you are assessed. This isn’t anyone’s fault, of course. Grades are one of the most ludicrously subjective ways we attempt to segment society into classes of intelligence. What’s even more ludicrous is that we continue to market the idea that grades matter.

In the nearly four years since I’ve graduated college, you know how many people have asked me about my 3.71 (because the second decimal matters) GPA? Zero.

So, what made me qualified for my current job? Authenticity and passion. Two things a GPA will never be able to tell any employer.

The only question I’ve ever received about any of my academic accomplishments came in a final round, day-long interview marathon where they were curious about one class I received a “C” in. I didn’t even try to sugarcoat it. I didn’t like the professor, felt like the class was frustratingly redundant, and I didn’t go to class. I was hired the next week.

From that point on, not only has my GPA been remarkably useless (and removed from my résumé), my degree doesn’t even matter anymore. I graduated with a B.S. degree in Economics and now, in my second job, I work as a writer and social media manager within K-12 Education. In the 162 credit hours I earned in college (sadly, for a single degree), I didn’t take a single creative writing or journalism course, I didn’t take a marketing or communications course, and I definitely didn’t take any education courses (you had to apply to the education school).

So, what made me qualified for my current job? Authenticity and passion. Two things a GPA will never be able to tell any employer.

Six months into my first job, I had a heart to heart with myself—this work was never going to inspire me. It was comfy. There was a transparent salary and promotion schedule, great benefits, a decent office culture, work had to stay at work, and I could start my day anytime between 6:00 am and 9:30 am. If anyone had an interest in the industry I worked in, I would recommend they consider applying to work at this corporation in a heartbeat. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it wasn’t for me.

Over the next three months, I took a deep dive into the world of blogging. I began building a website on WordPress, scrapped my hideous creation after six weeks, moved over to Squarespace so I could focus on my content, and I launched my website with eight blog posts ready for the world to see. Two weeks later, I began applying for writing jobs. Two weeks later, again, I got my first interview with my current employer.

What do you currently bring to the interview table? What would you like to bring to the interview table? Fill this gap.

As surprised, elated, and relieved I was to be making such a massive career change, I was a little confused. How did I just spend 18 years in school, cross the finish line with my fancy piece of paper that was supposed to determine the next 40 years of my life, and land a job that had nothing to do with any of it? What did this mean?

Fortunately, the meaning of it all correlates directly with the work I do now—looking to transform the education system.

The workforce has evolved eons beyond what colleges believe they are preparing us for. This isn’t my opinion. It’s the opinions of C-suite executives collected in Gallup’s 2014 “Great Jobs, Great Lives” study. A whopping 11% of C-suite executives believed college graduates are employable. Lucky for us, they have to hire someone, so if we all suck, we’ll get hired regardless. Inspiring.

Whether you’re preparing for, attending, or recently graduated from college, let this be a wake-up call that needing to worry about your GPA is the greatest lie anyone has ever told you.

Let’s set up a nice hypothetical scenario (traditional school style):

Job Candidate A is a 4.0 scholar who can’t hold a conversation, has never shown an ability to collaborate with peers, and admits he has a poor relationship with time management

Job Candidate B is a 2.0 Thirsty Thursday All-Star who can engage in fruitful conversation, raised over $10,000 for the local Habitat for Humanity, and showed up to the interview an hour early just in case World War III caused any traffic delays

Can you see how the GPA quickly faded into the background? In far less extreme examples, this happens over and over again on a daily basis. HR offices around the country are looking for candidates who are ready to win in the real world not the education one. As much as I despise the fact that these two worlds are easily spoken about in isolation, it is the current situation.

If your GPA is a lie, what’s the truth? Your humanity.

Just take a look at those two candidates above. Candidate A won the education game but lost his sense of self in the process. Candidate B also won the education game (earned a degree) and developed a diverse set of skills and dispositions along the way.

As an active listener, Candidate B became an artful conversationalist, which scored huge points in his interview. Through fundraising, Candidate B discovered the power of community and took interest in people’s personal stories, which not only scored points with the HR department but also showed he could take the lead within a diverse group of people.

What do you currently bring to the interview table? What would you like to bring to the interview table? Fill this gap.

Identify where your interests and passions lie, pursue them with a smile on your face, and show up to your first interview with a story so intriguing, your future employer will forget all about the numbers on your résumé and instead will be worrying about the numbers in his budget to make room for your addition to the team.

Featured image via Pexels


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