TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, spoke about entrepreneurship at UC Berkley recently, where he claimed that college was for old school entrepreneurs and the trend of the day was to get into a good school to prove you’re smart enough and then drop out. He says, “The best thing in the world is to go to Harvard for a year and drop out because everyone knows you were smart enough to get in”. However, Arrington himself, is a College Graduate and has never possibly been rejected for low grades or dropping out. But he has also started one of the most successful and influential Silicon Valley blogs and has spent years observing entrepreneurs of the many billion dollar companies based there.
In response to his speech, Vivek Wadhwa, entrepreneur turned Academic, Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard, says the following on Arrington’s own turf, TechCrunch, “Maybe Zuckerberg lucked out by being at the right place at the right time… To build a business, you need to understand subjects like finance, marketing, intellectual property and corporate law.”
To support his claim, Wadhawa, does explain how the companies started by entrepreneurs have gone to be built by Senior Execs who are highly educated people; executives with knowledge about how to actually build a company, not just start one.
Turns out, that not only is it important to finish that degree. It is also essential to start off right. Speaking to New York Times, a few years ago, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., who is the HR head at a company that owns businesses like match.com and Home Shopping Network, says that in his 15 years of experience good GPA grades have been great predictors of work ethic and smartness.
As Wadhwa says in his Tech Crunch post, a degree (and good GPA scores, we will include here), shows that you’re not going to ‘chase after every rainbow’.
So what can you do to boost your chances of being hired if you have dropped out of college or have low grades?
If your GPA is way below average, experts recommend skipping it on your Resume altogether. In the same NYT story, whereTaylorglorifies the importance of GPA,
Tory Johnson, the chief executive of Women for Hire inNew York, says the following, about mentioning a GPA lower than 3.0, “That is like saying ‘Hi, I’m mediocre,’”. A lot of great skills make up for a low GPA score, communication, charisma and so on, especially in fields like Sales or PR. Getting a face-to-face meeting will greatly enhance your chances of making an impression that could negate you low GPA grades.
If you dropped out of college to start a business venture, but you are now looking to be hired, demonstrate what you have done with your time and the skills you have learnt in the process. However, if you dropped out to ‘find yourself’ but you’re now serious about getting a job, you might want to consider going back to college. If you simply can’t afford it, try to highlight skills that come naturally to you, without having had much training or education, like writing or communication.
Many success stories at big corporations started began in the mail room. Grabbing just about any position at an organization you want to work for, shows initiative and dedication. Take graveyard shifts, become the copy boy, doing what it takes makes up for a lot of missing fields on one’s resume. Also, equally important as getting the job you want, working in the field that you want to make your mark in, even as a mail boy, helps you gain important insights in how the industry functions.
New Yorker journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell has studied and written extensively about what it takes to be successful. He has repeatedly exalted the importance of connections and being in the right place. In his book, The Outliers, he compares super-intelligent people from vastly different backgrounds, such as genius Christopher Langan, who, having been brought up in a poor family, had no academic credentials and ended up working as a bouncer, to the ‘manor born’ Robert Oppenheimer. Essentially, use your connections if you have them. If you have poor GPA or you dropped out of college but have plenty of potential, get this simple thing right: Network, network like crazy. Once you get that door to open for you, the sky could be the limit.
In times like these, when jobs continue to be rare, and in an increasingly knowledge-based economy, where GPA scores and College degrees, despite being prohibitively expensive, are given priority, you can stand out. But you’ve got to keep doing something while you try for your big break. It’ll help you pay your bills, so you don’t have to depend on your parents or partner, get you out of the house and help keep some of that desperation out. Keep your chin up and keep trying, the importance of grades, scores and degrees may vary, but the one thing the remains as rewarding as ever is the ‘never say die’ spirit.
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