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How Being a 'C' Student Helped Me in Business

Sometimes, real-world experience, not academic performance, is the better pathway to the corporate suite.

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I graduated from a four-year state university with an unspectacular 2.233 GPA. While I encourage today's current generation of college students to strive for much more than I accomplished academically, I will say that having a "C" average actually helped me in many respects. Here are four ways being a C student helped me in business:


Related: Do You Really Need a College Degree These Days?

I was forced to seek out real-world experience.

If I had a 4.0 average from a prestigious university, I might have had a false sense of security regarding my ability to secure the right job interviews. And had I landed them, I inevitably would have talked a lot about my academic prowess when interviewing with potential future bosses.

Knowing that my grades were neither going to get me any interviews or be an impressive talking point, I was forced to focus on the other intangibles that belong on the resume of a recent graduate, such as real-world job experience outside of school.

To gain an edge on my fellow classmates, something else I had to focus on was obtaining great internships and experience to help me stand out on my resume. Since some internship requirements do factor-in one's GPA -- and because the idea of fetching people's coffees every morning didn't appeal to me -- I instead concentrated on getting jobs that allowed me to develop skills I couldn't learn in the classroom.

For instance, I took a 100 percent commission sales job one summer. Not only did I develop my communication and sales skills, but I was exposed to a lot of great on-the-job training that proved invaluable in my subsequent career.

I was forced to become better at networking.

Since my college transcript wasn't going to get me in the door, I knew that the best way to impress future employers was by making a good impression before any of them scrutinized my resume. By joining school business organizations and asking everyone I met and respected in business for career advice, I built relationships that would later help me open doors that my GPA would not.

By learning to network early in my career, I also became more comfortable with getting out of my comfort zone. That learning curve gave me a leg-up on many of my peers, because I quickly gained experience and confidence.

Related: 8 Hugely Successful People Who Didn't Graduate College

I now look for future leaders who haven't followed a conventional path.

Some of the best leaders I've ever worked for and alongside often followed the path less traveled, as well -- ones, like me, with little education or less-than-stellar academic credentials. While I have a healthy respect for the straight-A students of the world, academic records are not the major factor I consider when looking for future leaders.

Instead, I want to leave the door open to find leaders of all backgrounds. By doing so, I've given opportunities to some outstanding people who have achieved well beyond what their grades might otherwise have suggested.

I became good at seeking out alternative forms of education.

Some of the greatest business lessons I ever learned were a result of being around the right people. During my college and early-career years, I always sought out mentors I could learn from in a variety of ways. From observing these leaders, I gained insights and wisdom that you just can't learn in the classroom.

I found that many of these mentors were also largely self-taught. They suggested that I read books on personal growth to accelerate my career and to broaden my perspective. Much of the credit for any level of success I've achieved, I attribute to the books I read and the mentors I shadowed.

Related: 3 Ways to Hold Employees Accountable for Their Career Growth

There are numerous things you can take away from the experiences of this "C" student, then -- even if you aced your own college career. The most important thing is to be open to learning from a variety of sources and to strive to balance your academic experiences with your real-world ones.

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