When I was 17, if you asked me how I planned on getting a job in the future, I think I would have said: Get into the right college. When I was 18, if you asked me the same question, I would have said: Get into the right classes. When I was 19: Get good grades.
But when employers recently named the most important elements in hiring a recent graduate, college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list. At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars.
What Employers Want
"When employers do hire from college, the evidence suggests that academic skills are not their primary concern," says Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor and the author of a new paper on job skills. "Work experience is the crucial attribute that employers want even for students who have yet to work full-time."
Before you retreat to the comment section and scream at me for saying that school, classes, and grades don't matter, let me say: I don't think this should be interpreted as a sign that schools, classes, and grades don't matter. Employers might not crave academic skills. But students often qualify for the "right" internships by getting good grades in relevant classes at challenging schools. In this calculation, a strong academic record buys you a strong experience record, so when an employer is evaluating your internships, he's indirectly evaluating your academic achievements, too.