I always grew up thinking that being the smartest in class and having the highest grades are the most important things I can achieve in school. My parents groomed me to be part of the best classes in school and they constantly pushed me to be at the top 3 in my class. Luckily for me, grade school and high school were easy for me. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t work hard to make it in the top 3 every year, but I was confident that if I just study smart and put all my focus on my academics, I would be able to maintain my grades and make my parents proud.
Being an asian kid, I always thought that one of the most important things as a student is to make sure that I get really good grades. If I want to get into a great school, grades matter. Growing up, my parents and teachers tell me that success is only achieved if I get into a good school and have good grades. They say that companies would line up to me just so I could say yes to the job offer I want.
I managed to get into one of the best schools in our country. I took up chemical engineering and throughout my five years in college, I managed to maintain good grades. I worked hard to avoid failing in any exam because I didn’t want to have a record of failing marks. That really wouldn’t look good once I start applying for jobs. Eventually, I graduated with a chemical engineering degree and became part of the top of the class. Of course I was happy to make my parents proud. I was proud of my achievement as well. I was also confident that my grades will help me land a great job. I thought I was set for a great life ahead already.
But six months later, there I was. Jobless. I was this fresh graduate who was having a hard time getting a job that I prefer. I’ve been applying to different companies – ones that I found myself growing as a better engineer. I wanted to be part of these companies because they really had good programs with good benefits. But as I line up for an interview, I saw how competition was tough. So many chemical engineers (some with experience) were also present and waiting for their time to have their interviews taken.
I noticed that while the people behind the desks were impressed with my grades, they were looking for something more. Attitude? Involvement in various organizations? Connections? I’m not sure what each company was looking for me but I am sure that they were looking for more than the grades I presented in my records. When I didn’t hear from them a few weeks after the interviews, I realized that everything I believed in school weren’t necessarily true. While grades helped, it really didn’t matter once I get out of the real world.
Talking to a friend who works in the HR, she told me that grades are just part of what employers would assess. They look for experiences, leaderships skills and the attitude towards handling different situations. Maybe those were the things that I didn’t show to them. So, right now, I feel a little hopeless of my situation. I never really had extra-curricular activities because I focused on getting good grades.
So here I am, a fresh graduate with no job. I’m still waiting for calls from the companies I might settle for. But I learned that grades don’t really matter after college. I really should have known it earlier. I don’t know what to do to be honest. Do you know any job for a chemical engineer out there?