Students each have their perception of the formula to success; this blog post is about my own theory. I think that there are 3 variables: GPA, work, and extracurriculars. If you a sizeable amount of eggs in all these baskets, you can achieve your career goals.
GPA: having a 4.0 in business school does not guarantee you a job. The most it can demonstrate is your ability to cope with a ton of information, and your time management skills. It leaves out teamwork, exposure to the actual industry, any passions you might have, and so much more. The most important factor that I think the GPA leaves out is leadership. Those who can rise up the corporate ladders of this world have initiative, leadership, and management skills; none of these assets are shown in your 2-decimal number. However, this number has meaning to it that will (well, should) not be overlooked by employers. The professors that are teaching us are experts in their field; as a result, the marks they hand out have quite the credibility. In marketing, at least 80% of our marks are project-based because the real world works that way. If the class average is curved down to a B and your group got an A, it means that in the real world, your project would have been chosen.
Work: some students have some insane internships under their belt, and some don’t. The internships you score could come from your family’s connections, a lucky networking cocktail, or your blood, sweat, and…cover letter. Because there are so many factors that play into your work experience attainment, I think the emphasis should be put on what was actually achieved and learned throughout your 1-4 months. In our student lives, we function in a small environment where there are only so many cause and effect relationships. We study business, but we rarely apply it. Work experience allows you to have more on the line - money, your job, your reputation, and more. You also learn to navigate different corporate cultures, generation gaps, cultural backgrounds, and hierarchies. At school, people are either young adults or seasoned educators, but nothing in between. To conclude, I think students should look for as much work experience as possible in their academic life, in order to learn about work preferences before locking oneself into a full-time job upon graduation.
Extracurriculars: I love extracurriculars. My adolescent life has revolved around schools clubs because of the social aspect, the acquired skills, and especially the uniting-for-a-common-purpose bit. I just don’t think they should be the focus of your university life. There’s only so much you can learn from organizing events for students; after holding logistics, communications, and sponsorship positions I can say that my learning curve has plateau-ed. Additionally, the esteemed President position of any group is only as strong as you make it. Anyone can create their own club and run events, but what did he/she do to better the club? To add value towards the mission? Extracurricular life, as the MUS President likes to say, is like a sandbox for us business students. We can screw up, experiment, and learn without the consequences of the real world. The next-level extracurricular activities you can involve yourself with are out-of-campus events (conferences, festivals) or even creating your own business (which ties into work) - these are ideal, as they tie in multiple factors, and because fewer students will pursue this route.
To be truly well-rounded as a business student, two of the three can be enough. But to have no regrets about your resource allocation, I think all three must be pursued equally. Try hard in school, have a club or two that you’re really passionate about, and get yourself some work experience to become a business student with no regrets.
PS: The personality factor was left out of the mix because I believe every personality suits a company, or a few companies. It’s all about fit, and there is no one personality that will fit with every company. If you have enough GPA, work experience and extracurricular activity, finding companies that fit you should not be a problem.
PPS: Staying up to date with business news becomes almost mandatory by the final year! Start early, be business-savvy.