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What Employers Are Looking For

You’ve always been told that your grades are what matters. The score you earn is almost like a badge that proves where your skills lie, how “smart” you are, and what your future holds. Letters and numbers on your transcript will make or break your career, right? So it makes complete sense that when deciding if you should take classes on tougher subjects over courses you know you’ll ace, you go with the easier option. But while you may be able to list that great GPA on your resume while you’re applying for jobs, there’s much more employers will be looking for once you make it to the interview. The trick is to be well-rounded: knowledgeable, thoughtful, and up for a new challenge.

Understand emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence” is a phrase that’s popular with educators and hiring managers these days. It literally means being smart about emotions, which include your personal feelings and the feelings of those around you. The phrase also covers the soft skills that make someone a desirable co-worker and employee: being adaptable, understanding how to deal with your negative emotions, and how to communicate effectively with those around you.

Hiring managers want to bring on knowledgeable people in hopes to find candidates that hit the ground running with less hand-holding from the start. In the past, they used an applicant’s GPA to determine who would be the best fit. The higher the grade, the more likely they’d do well, right?

Not exactly. While good grades have always been something to work toward, hiring managers have learned that that’s not the only good way to measure how well someone will fit into the company and how they’ll perform the job. Getting a sense of a person’s emotional intelligence, however, can be a better way to determine their potential working with customers and on a team.

According to Talent Smart, 90% of the highest performers in the workplace have been evaluated and measured to have a high level of emotional intelligence That means that, when hiring, employers and managers will be looking at how you answer questions and interact with them to ensure you become one of their best performers.

Having high emotional intelligence also means you’re able and willing to learn, be independent, and to look for fair and reasonable solutions before bringing a problem to a supervisor’s attention.

Try this to improve your emotional intelligence: Be observant! Whether you’re at work, school, or home, take a moment to soak in what’s going on around you. Ask yourself what your heroes would do in the situations you’re observing. You’ll train yourself to better understand social situations and to pause and think before immediately reacting emotionally.

Challenge yourself.

Grades are definitely important, but they only tell you how much information a person can remember or how well they can follow the rules for writing an essay in a certain format. Those skills can certainly be helpful in the workforce, but they don’t show a potential employer how capable of creative thinking and problem-solving you are. When you’re consistently taking classes and programs that build upon skills you already have, you may have a perfect grade average but you’re not necessarily learning anything new.

If there’s a class that you’ve been interested in taking, but are hesitant to take the first step because you don’t want to get a less than perfect score, now’s the time to consider it. Even if you don’t ace the course, you’re still learning something you didn’t know before. You’re also developing other skills you may not realize, like critical thinking, managing stress and/or change, or even positivity and self-reflection.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can help you refine your problem-solving skills by forcing you to see different solutions than you normally would consider. When you’re working hard to understand a subject you’re not already great at, you are sharpening your creative thinking skills by taking time to work out different ways to solve the problem. When you keep pushing forward, determined to do the best you can, you’re improving your patience, self-confidence, and adaptability.

Try this to challenge yourself: Think about one thing you know you are pretty terrible at. It doesn’t matter what it is. Then, go take a class in that. You’re not going to want to go, because struggling with concepts or doing less than your best is uncomfortable. But once you realize that you can still pass and gain knowledge on that topic without an A, challenging yourself in other ways gets a bit easier, too. You may surprise yourself!

Remember that even if you don’t do well in something, you’ve still learned something.

Maybe you’re not the most confident writer, so you decide to take a writing course to help. Great! You’re ready to rock, but then you get your first writing assignment back and the grade is… not good. It’s not the worst either, so you stick it out and finish the course. You get your final grade and maybe you didn’t pass, or you barely made it. You want to cry a bit, because you’re not used to getting less than an A in anything. You might even think that going through all that work was a waste of your time.

But then you go to write up a report for work or an important email and you notice that you remember some of the tips and tricks you learned in class. You might never win an award for writing, but you did learn something that helped you improve.

Or, consider this: you’re trained in reading literature and writing persuasive essays. While most people don’t need to write essays in their careers, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to convince others that your solution is the best approach. A great way to do that is to clearly define the reasons why they should agree with you. Being able to outline your thoughts can help you be effective in the workplace.

Not into literature? Take math as another example. In order to pass your exam, you had to learn a formula to solve for “x.” But in your career, you need to apply that formula to a real-world problem. Your perfect GPA won’t tell an employer if you are going to be the person that steps in and solves problems. They’re looking for your career experience or signs that you are able to find solutions on your own.

Try this: Consider the skills you already have, the subjects and tasks that come easily to you. Then, think of how you can apply some of the work you have to do in school to the work you do in your career.

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You aren’t your GPA.

Schools don’t grade things like creativity, empathy, leadership skills, or emotional awareness. These skills, however, are what employers look for in many industries. Being able to approach a problem from a new angle, or even calmly speak through a difficult situation, can be more helpful in the workforce than remembering a piece of information you memorized in school. While it’s important to always try your best, in the end you aren’t your GPA. You can develop practical skills without having a perfect score on every exam. If you’re worried about pursuing your dream job because you just don’t think you can do it, take a step back and think about the skills you do have that are necessary for the job and go from there. With determination and passion, you can succeed!