“…Strong grades are good in and of themselves, and the pursuit of academic rigour gives a student many life skills that are all too often unappreciated.”
Reginald Aziza (Phd, LL.M)
One of the most exciting dichotomies in Nigeria’s recruiting space is the debate around grades. Is grade a good judgement of excellence? Is grade a worthy metric for measuring a candidate’s brilliance? In a world where what you can do trumps what you know, should we still have lines like: “Strictly first-class and 2:1“ in Job descriptions? Grab your seat, let’s meander together.
I recently graced a legal-centric platform where different reputable law firms talked in detail about their recruitment process and was intrigued when seven out of eight firms laid emphasis on the fact that they don’t accept candidates below 2:1, justifiably so. But in a country where universities churn out thousands of graduates with about 20% or less falling between the first class and second-class upper-division, what is the hope of the graduates with other grades?
News continues after this ad
Choices and chances
Life is about choices and chances, and the academic space might not be an exception. In an article guest-written on an academic blog a while ago, the author wrote:
“I once heard a titillating tale of two reading partners Ayo and Chika, and how few marks separated their GPA in their final semester, Ayo had 4Cs and 2Ds (2.67) while Chika had 4Bs and 2Cs (3.67). Ayo’s Cs were 58,57,59,58 and his Ds were 48,48 while Chika’s Bs were 60,61,60,61 and his Cs were 50,51.
News continues after this ad
They both were on the borderline of second class upper division, Ayo was on 3.54 while Chika was on 3.52. After the cumulated results Ayo dropped to a second class lower while Chika finished with a second class upper. From this analysis, you can see how little things make big difference, the mean of their score was 54.7 and 57.1 respectively i.e, both were average students with C grades, but a little one mark and two marks here and there made a big difference.”
If you are a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and have read books like Outliers and The tipping point, you would notice how little moments, occurrences and features could swing the direction of outcomes. As a matter of fact, I have met graduates who finished with poor grades then go ahead to take professional certifications and pass with flying colours. Does that justify academic mediocrity? Of course not, however, an unpopular school of thought believes that grades aren’t the ultimate, output is.
Let us talk a little about output.
Good grades speak volumes. If output speaks volumes, is there a better way to judge an output than the outcome of students studying under stringent uncomfortable measures in public universities?
From overcrowded lecture theatres to overload of materials and stinginess with grades, graduating with excellent grades in a horrendous learning environment is a testament to grit, tenacity, self-leadership and other traits required to thrive in the career world. Is it then safe to say that good grades are great pointers of excellent performance at work?
Excellent grades are also a pointer to a lot of other required skills needed to thrive in the corporate world. An exciting chat with a couple of best-graduating students revealed that their feat was not just achieved with the focus of academics, there was a lot of planning, managing demands, external pressure, knowing what the lecturers want, going the extra mile to seek knowledge and produce excellent results. These traits are replicable in the workplace.
Tying the knots
In a hearty conversation with a set of recruiters across different sectors, a unifying factor beyond grades was a candidate’s involvement in extra-curricular activities. Recent graduates who held leadership positions, planned a conference, joined a social organisation like AIESEC, JCI, ANUNSA, ENACTUS, supported an SDG, and got engaged in other capacity building activities have been said to do exceptionally well in interviews as well as on the job. Hiring managers point out to their teamwork abilities, collaborative abilities, ability to drive projects from ideation to execution and other related skills.
It is also fascinating that a larger percentage of graduates who made a first-class or second-class (upper-division) are the front liners in extra-curricular engagements.
Are good grades the ultimate metric for excellence? It is 2021 and the future of work is now present. Whether you graduated with an excellent grade or not, what you know does matter, but far more important is what you can do with what you know.
What are your thoughts about good grades as it relates to career performance?