5 things that matter MORE than good grades
Sanket Dantara an IIMA alumnus and author of From Cubicle 2 Cabins: A survival guide to your first job tells us about the five things that matter more than your grades.
There have been loads of articles and books on what determines success in life and the role played by education and grades. There has been even more debate on whether grades are a good predictor of success and the role of IQ vs. EQ and soft skills and how some of the greats were college drop outs and so on.
Irrespective of all this, whether we like it or not, grades are here to stay (at least for now) and they will continue to be used as an assessment tool, both in college as well as for your initial job interviews right out of campus. The fact that companies don't offer you jobs based on your CV alone, the reason why they have personality tests and group discussions implies that grades are more of a hygiene factor, a way to eliminate candidates.
So as long as you have grades above a certain threshold, you shouldn't obsessively fuss about them and develop a tunnel vision that focuses on grades alone. And even if you don't have very good grades, you can't go back in time and change them, not unless you invented a time machine in which case nothing else matters
Now, what does matter? College is a time to also pick up on other skills which will form an integral part of your work life.
Figuring out your learning style
As often said, 'the only thing that doesn't change is change itself'. What you know today will be obsolete soon and you will have no choice but to keep yourself updated with the latest findings, to keep learning. Even on the job, you will encounter so many things you don't know and would have to learn.
Each person has a different learning style. Some people need to hear it, others are visual and need to see it, and some prefer to write it before they remember it. Figure out your learning style! Knowing this will help you pick up new skills and adapt to the changing business and work environment quickly and smoothly. What better time than college to figure this?
This will also enable to develop a learning orientation vs. a grading orientation. Remember in real life what matters more is your ability to apply what you have learnt before at the right place, at the right time, to the right problem. In real life, the exam question will not be explicitly given to you.
Pursuing life skills developing experiences
Summer internships, projects, student chapters of various organisations (be it academic or extracurricular and sports related) are the best place for you to seek and develop real world skills.
Managing projects, managing an event, finding sponsors, persuasion, raising and managing money, getting permissions, handling a team... did I miss any real world skill?? Yup the biggest, time management! Pursuing all this while managing your studies and personal hobbies will give you the biggest gift; to be able to manage your time better.
And this is one skill you will definitely not regret developing once you take up a job, get married, and have kids! No amount of books on communication, negotiation, project management will give you the kind of experience that you will get by doing it yourself.
This will not only strengthen your self-image, teach to you make better decisions and enhance your leadership skills but will also help you to develop other positive character traits.
Building a network
It goes without saying that the bonds of friendship forged during college days will be something you will treasure for the rest of your life. It is these peers who will go on and grow along with you both personally and professionally and will form your support both in good and bad times.
The people you meet outside of your own college while working and volunteering with other organisations will also be a part of your network. So get in the habit of meeting new people, building deeper relationships, becoming more likable, and helping others do the same.
Honing your communication skills
I am sure you have heard this a thousand times, but the importance of communication skills can't be emphasized enough. Most of you would have some sort of communication skills course work as part of your curriculum. Go beyond that.
Grab that opportunity to speak on a topic, volunteer to make that extra presentation, attempt to write for the college magazine, start a blog. Explore any and all opportunities to fine tune your oral and written communication skills. It will matter a lot later in life to be able to convey your ideas clearly to your boss, making that elevator pitch, writing that memo or report.
No matter how intelligent or game changing your idea is unless you are able to articulate it in the right manner, you will find your boss unwilling to allocate resources and back it.
Take the time you are in college to define yourself. To find out what is it that your are good at and have the ability to be the best in the world at. Learn the skill and develop the maturity to accept constructive criticism and utilize it to find your strengths and weaknesses.
Find out what makes you happy, what kind of work you enjoy doing and then map these to possible careers for you to pursue.
Use this self awareness to focus your life skill learning experiences to those that would allow you to validate or negate your perception of yourself. Exploring various career options at this stage is less risky with a limited downside compared to when you have already graduated and into your job. So make the most of this!
So while you run after that next A+ or 95% on your test don't forget that college is probably the only risk free opportunity (well almost) for you to try your hand at various skill building endeavors and shaping your attitude and building a strong work ethic.
Sanket J Dantara is an alumnus of IIMA and the author of 'From cubicles 2 cabins : A survival guide to your first job'. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can know more about the book at http://elfseries.wordpress.com