A Tale of Two Cs: The CGPA-Career Correlation
An aunt once asked me where I would be interning. I told her. She had difficulty pronouncing the name of the company and 5 minutes later was blissfully unaware of it. However she was very interested in knowing details of the other big companies who had come to campus and was visibly excited at the mention of a company she had heard of like a Microsoft or a Vodafone. This was followed by a long and exhaustive Q&A session on the companies’ hiring trends, historical data on their pay structures, opportunities of global assignments etc. (in short, something a senior consultant at the Hay Group should be adept at). And this strategic discussion on my job prospects ended with the usual exhortations to study hard, get a top percentage (I was too dazed to explain the CGPA), get a great job, and do my family proud.
So in the wake of familial pressures, we start off with the question, “Does a good CGPA help me get a good job?”
Short answer: “Yes.”
Long answer: “Mostly, yes.”
Let’s delve into this a bit. A good CGPA (or CQPI for us XLRI folk) generally points to one of two things:
1) You’re an intelligent person
2) You’re a hardworking person (You could also be a most excellent combination of both).
Why would an organization not want to hire somebody with these qualities?
Actually there are a few reasons.
The industry is dynamic and continuously evolving and the recruitment practices for today’s organizations are evolving as well. Gone are the days of taking orders from an evil boss determined to walk all over your happiness and call you to work on your days off (or so we wish 🙁 ). Point being, the old autocratic times of working alone in your dingy cubicles are saying their goodbyes. Organizations are now realizing the power of teamwork and trends such as cross-functional or self-managed teams which were once considered fads are now becoming an inherent part of the work culture of many of today’s biggest organizations. Today’s modern organization wants a well-balanced individual who can appreciate others’ talents and work well with them. There are still enough opportunities for the brilliant individual but the concept of the ‘lone wolf’ finds short shrift within many companies today.
This does not mean organizations are not looking for the best available candidates. They would be stupid not to. The only difference is the definitions for ‘best’ are now changing. There are many new parameters used for determining the suitability of candidates to jobs and they surpass really high academic scores and test a candidate’s proficiency in communication and inter-personal skills. Psychological profiling has long been in use by many companies and new methods to find the better candidate are always being researched.
But are we promoting modest GPAs or passable grades here? Certainly not. Your academic performance is one of the most visible things on your resume and brilliant scores will always catch a recruiter’s eye. But to quote one of XLRI’s most senior professors, Dr. Jitendra Singh, “Your CQPI is merely a passport. All it will do is get you noticed and get you a shortlist. By all means work hard in your academic pursuits but know that today a better-rounded individual is what companies are looking for.” And that is precisely the point. Many a bright student has been unable to convert his dream job because he came across as too tongue-tied or one-dimensional in his interview. Organizations look at a prospect’s knowledge and skills, but they also try to measure his/her attitude. You will be groomed into business managers and the leaders of tomorrow, and you are capable of much more than passing an exam albeit with flying colors.
Continuing this line of thought, let’s analyze whether a job is the same as a career. How long do people stay with their jobs? Not for too long (4.4 years per job according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for those of you who are sticklers for facts). And when it comes to a first job, this number is almost halved (a la Time). Why state these statistics? It’s a B-schooler’s way of saying, “Oh, ye of little faith. Fret not for not getting to cherry pick thine vocation, for thine calling still awaits.” Archaic phraseology aside, a lot of us will switch a lot of jobs. One job does not a career make.
To use another of Prof. Singh’s examples, Russi Modi was an average student and no one could’ve imagined him heading an organization as large and complex as Tata Steel. But he did so very successfully and for many years. You don’t even need to cast your eyes to distant Jamshedpur. The annals of one’s grad or business school will be littered with alumni stories of those most successful and revered today who were no great shakes when it came to getting straight A’s (rather like Einstein). They may not have bagged the most lucrative offer on campus, they may have changed a few jobs but they had those qualities that make a successful career.
Go and study hard. That’s why we are here. And among all the activities we can undertake in a B-school, this will always be the most important. But this is a place that affords us limitless opportunity. Meet and interact with as many people as you can. Enroll in contests you can never win (because you just might). Come up with crazy, fantastical solutions to cure world poverty and famine in the Sahara and spend long hours discussing their operational feasibility. Make business contacts. More importantly, make a few close friends. You will get the chance to do so many things, your head will spin. Do them. And there will be many (and I do mean many) nights when you’ll be frustrated out of your mind and cursing some professor for giving you an insurmountable assignment due at some ungodly hour. Do that too. But if in spite of trying so hard, you don’t make it to the top of your class, do not lose hope. Your career hasn’t even begun yet.
Nadeem is a class of 2015 student at XLRI, Jamshedpur in the HR stream after working for 3 and a half years with TCS in the Program Management function. He is a big fan of literature and music and will be doing his summer internship with Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
Follow Nadeem at nadeem.insideiim.com