Don’t get me wrong. GPA is an important factor in your job search, making you more (or less) marketable and possibly impacting your starting salary. However, most employers know that GPA is not the single or most accurate predictor of success in the workplace. In the NACE Job Outlook 2014, 67.1% of responding employers reported screening 2014 grads by GPA, down from an all-time high of 78.1% in 2014. While a strong GPA is helpful in your job search, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
To be a well-rounded job seeker, pair that great GPA with one, two or three related work experiences such as internships, co-ops, or research positions. In the same NACE Job Outlook survey, 74.1% of employers said that they prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience, up from 71% in 2013. Here are a few reasons why internships, co-ops and other related work experiences appeal to hiring managers.
1. Wet Feet – Having work experience related to your career field shows employers that you’ve gotten your feet wet and tested out the industry. Employers invest thousands of dollars in recruiting, hiring and training new employees and when they see that a candidate has related work experience, they assume that he or she is applying for the position because they enjoyed that experience and want to continue working in the field.
2. Mad Skills – As a student you learn copious amounts of information on your field of study, but many programs don’t allow much time in the classroom for students to apply the principles and concepts they have learned. Internships and other work related experiences allow you to supplement knowledge gained in school with skills developed in the workplace. This shows employers that you have put your education to practice and that you may be more likely to hit the ground running faster than your counterparts without the experience.
3. Movin’ on Up – Internships are also a great way to get your foot in the door with a company you’d like to work for long term. Many companies invest great amounts of time and money into their intern and co-op programs in the hopes that they can convert a percentage of those students to full-time hires at graduation. Think of related experiences as an extended interview. They are the prime time for you to see if you enjoy working for the company and for the company to assess your value and viability as a full-time employee.
Can jobs be found for graduates with high GPAs and no related work experience? Yes. However, candidates with the complete package will rise to the top of employers’ must-have lists, will command high starting salaries and may have their pick of the most desirable positions.