Experience beats grades

valerie.west and valerie.west

It’s another Thursday morning around 3 a.m. Most of The North Wind staff has left for the night but I am still finishing the newspaper. I want to go home and sleep because I have an exam in the morning, but I can’t.

As I walk out into an empty parking lot I know that the paper will roll off the press in a few hours and The North Wind will grace the hallways of campus. No doubt grammar and headline errors will greet me on my walk to class after a brief nap, evidence of our fatigue coupled with inexperience. And on Friday, we’ll plan for next week’s issue and the madness will begin again.

This is how I’ve spent most of my Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings of my college career in our hodgepodge office in the University Center, neglecting schoolwork and exercise. But, I would do it all over again.

I graduate in less than three weeks and in my four years at Northern, I have met and interviewed recording artists, directors and campus and community bigwigs. My tenure at this small weekly paper has allowed me to work with a diverse group of young people while better preparing me for a future career in journalism.

Even though my grades have suffered some from my work here it was well worth the experience.

College is much more than completing course work and graduating with a stellar GPA. Nobody cares what I got on my chemistry tests, and I can guarantee future employers aren’t going to see much difference from a 3 point to a 4 point. What they are going to care about is what students did in their college career.

College Hiring 2006, a survey by careerbuilder.com, listed the top things employers are looking for in college grads. Topping the charts at no. 1 is relevant job experience. Employers want to see what college grads can do outside of the classroom.

A student who can balance work, school and a social life shows that he or she can balance responsibilities. Internships, work and volunteering all fall under this category.

The no. 2 sought out characteristic is personality and how it will match up with the company. The more active a student is in campus or community activities and organizations, the more practice he or she can get from working with a variety of other people, while gaining job experience. Northern boasts more than 300 student organizations, there’s plenty of opportunity to glean social skills.

And the no. 3 attribute employers look at is education. A relevant degree and coursework can help a student get the job, but grades weren’t listed as the highest priority.

Northern offers many opportunities to get prepared for the “real world” we’ve all been hearing about. NMU Jobsearch offers career skill builders, mock interviews and resume critiques. And while we’re all at Northern to hopefully get that great job after we graduate, the experience in a campus environment is unique to anything we’ll ever see again.

Bookworms who are so concerned with grades are going to miss out on great opportunities to grow as an individual and make life-long friends.

As I finish my stint at The North Wind and train new editors to take the place of seasoned veterans, I wish them the same hardships of last-minute interviews and computer crashes. Because the lack of sleep and stress we all had as we tried to make the grade was the best damn time I’ve ever had.