GPA on Resume: School versus the World

Subject: GPA on Resume: School versus the World
From: Michael Uhl <uhl -at- VISLAB -dot- EPA -dot- GOV>
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 18:13:37 -0500

Soap Box time:

Richard Mateosian wrote, as far as I can tell, that a high GPA from a good
school indirectly implies that a person will make a good employee. I
hope Richard reads this and corrects me if I am wrong. I respect
Richard's knowledge and abilities. However, I disagree with this idea.

Undergraduates are typically spoon fed information and requirements.
How many times have we heard students ask, "Is this going to be on the
test?" I was always dismayed to talk to students whose sole focus was on
getting good grades and spending not more than one nanosecond too long
in studying. They were not at college to learn, per se. Learning was
incidental to pursuing good grades. I'd rather flunk a math class and
learn some math than get an A in a subject I already knew well. For
example, when I took French 101, the teacher took a survey of the class:
"How many have had three or more years of high school French?" All but me
and a Japanese guy raised their hands. Oh boy, was I inspired!

Why curve grades if the goal is learning? The goal is not learning, it's
competition. So, you say, the real world requires competitive skills.
Competitive no-nothings?

Back to the real world. The GPA is not nearly as important as the evidence
about attitude for learning. Why did you take Advanced Calculus as a
History major? I like math (good answer); I was curious (good answer);
I thought it would help me be a better history student (wierd, but good
answer); I knew Calculus real well and it fit well into my schedule (boring

Technical Communicators must love learning; they must be curious. They
must be able to adapt: software today, machine tools tomorrow. Customers
should meet an individual who is enthusiastic about new challenges,
subjects, people, and working environments.

Rather than GPA, express your attitude about learning and changing to
new circumstances. Did you change majors? Why? How did you mix technical
and non-technical subjects? Why? How can you apply these skills and this
attitude to the working environment.

It's not enough to have book smarts. Try to communicate your ability to
produce a communication product that satisfies the employer's customers
and adds to the employer's profitability, all the while adding to the
value of the employer's long term capabilities (and your own).



Michael Andrew Uhl Internet: uhl -at- vislab -dot- epa -dot- gov
Lead Technical Writer (NESC) Phone: (919) 541-4283
Lockheed Martin Fax: (919) 541-0056
Primary Support Contractor for the US EPA ftp site:
Scientific Visualization Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
National Environmental Supercomputing Center (NESC), Bay City, MI
US EPA, Environmental Research Center, Research Triangle Park, NC

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