How my Education Nearly Prevented me from Getting a Job


Is the title stretching things a little bit? Perhaps.  I could always find some sort of job if I wanted to.  What I am referring to was the ability to secure a relevant job/internship within my chosen degree of finance.  Some may take issue and point out that I just didn’t try hard enough or blah blah . . . “American Dream” . . . blah blah “lazy.”  They could be right.  But I believe that for the time and effort I spent submitting applications for finance internships and the placement rate boasted by the finance program, I should have been able to at least interview for a position.  Instead, I proactively went a different route that has paid dividends since then (finance joke).

Before I go off and make it sound like I am ungrateful for my education, let me make it clear that I do value the learning experience I had at BYU and that I gained a quality degree at low cost.  They know that as well, which hasn’t stopped them from asking for donations.  That also hasn’t stopped me from poking fun of my Alma Mater and its unique culture.  Except in Leonardo DiCaprio’s case, sometimes it’s fun to poke the bear.

Halfway through college, I found myself on the waitlist for the finance program.  I hadn’t been accepted into the business program so I was considering alternatives in the meantime: “An economics major sounds smart, but I hated the class,” or “humanities would be simple, but I want to be able to provide for myself in the future.”  Through some higher power, I was accepted from the waitlist.  In the back of my mind, this didn’t make sense.  Due to an unforgettably enjoyable, yet underachieving freshman year, my cumulative GPA had been brought to the minimum acceptance parameter.  Besides writing an awe-inspiring essay, how did I get into the more competitive and specialized finance program rather than the more simple and general business program?

Around this time, I allowed phrases such as “divine intervention,” “meant to be,” and “#blessed” to float through my head.  I did well in most of the classes. Most classes I understood the material.  A few classes, I feigned understanding like the rest of the class and relied on the curve – very unrepresentative of what I had actually learned.  I probably would have gotten more out of an Ancient Greek Poetry class through a Humanities major.

From the start of the finance program, we were encouraged to begin applying for internship opportunities early.  I would submit at least two applications daily for various positions that opened up on the school’s career board.  Teachers and faculty encouraged students to attend information sessions for visiting companies and “network” with those individuals.

I never much cared for these meetings.  Out of a full room of 60 students, half were there to network, the other half waited patiently for the food at the end, and a few people realized they were in the wrong place, but were too polite to leave during the presentation.  These meetings usually ran late due to the stalwart networking students deciding to ask brownnosing questions on everyone else’s time.  Those students will deny it, but everyone knew what they were doing.  The students there for the food were usually disappointed when they discovered they had wasted another hour that week for cheap Little Caesar’s Pizza and were another step closer to dying of heart disease.

Out of the dozens of applications I submitted, I heard back from roughly half of the companies; and that was only an automated message telling me that I was not being considered for the position.  I was competing with students who considered a 3.95 GPA to be a disgrace to their family name.   How was I supposed to measure up to employers who were predominantly basing their decisions based on GPA and on-point brownnosing? Should I buy a more skin-tight suit? Not wear socks with my shoes? Perhaps pay $50 for a faded haircut?  Or get suit pants that cut off just below the calf? All of these traits gave the impression of a seemingly successful candidate within the Marriott School of Business.

Only the students with the highest GPAs can wear a suit on a beach

Admittedly, I am not a very good classroom learner.  I find it hard to focus, fidget constantly, and come out looking average on paper.  Instead, I have focused more heavily on experiential learning, participating in various part-time internships while I went to school (which could have contributed to my lower GPA).  How is someone who is working to put themselves through school supposed to put in as much time to schoolwork as those who receive scholarships or have their parents pay for school?

Around January, having been put off by the extremely competitive and cutthroat atmosphere of the Tanner building and world of finance (we were actually told by a teacher that “investment banking is the sure road to divorce”), I began considering a career in healthcare administration.  I found a local internship through Intermountain Healthcare at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center which provided great exposure to the healthcare industry.  Although it was unpaid, it provided the hands-on learning I thrived on.

Very few industries I know are so generous and willing to help students succeed as healthcare administration.  Through the internship, I was given valuable time with CEOs and executives of different hospitals, direct access to other influential leaders, and guidance in creating a solid foundation in healthcare through graduate school programs.  Through the work we did, the impact we were having by implementing evidence-based tactics and the positively coinciding hospital scores was obvious.

All of this was done independently of the business school.  Additional support to send us to a national healthcare conference came from outside the business school.  If anything, I felt a sense of disapproval stemming from the finance program from not going through a Fortune 500 company and for participating in an unpaid internship.

Nevertheless, I ended up having a great internship that fit my interests and skillsets over the summer.  Contrast this with some other individuals I had gone through the finance program with.  They were in the same boat in that they also lacked that competitive edge offered through a resume.  No offers came their way.  They ended up becoming insurance agents for the summer.  There’s nothing wrong with insurance agents, everyone needs insurance.  But if you are going to school for a specialized degree, what good does it do you to get a job that doesn’t require a degree? Especially if you don’t plan on sticking with it.  To my knowledge, they have acquired more relevant jobs now, but at the time, it was stressful to have everyone securing internships except for you.

Where I’m at now

I am applying for Masters programs in Healthcare Administration and have been accepted to some of the best programs in the nation.  As usual, my GPA and GRE scores were average, but I attribute the healthcare experience I have accumulated over the past three years outside of the classroom to my being a competitive candidate.  These programs only consider GPA and testing scores as a small part of the application, placing more emphasis on experience and potential.  Each program is known for placing nearly 100% of their students in jobs and internships across the nation.

Had I not decided to go a different route, I’m sure things would have worked out somehow.  But the process of never being considered for dozens of applied for positions because I couldn’t match the GPA of other candidates became wearing.  I felt like my program had shot me in the foot by accepting me but not being able to secure an internship due to the high reliance on GPA.  To get to where I am hasn’t been easy.  I have done an immense amount of personal networking and put in hundreds of hours into my internships at no pay.  But I realized the experience was invaluable in preparing for the future.

I am grateful for the education I received.  But remember those students who may not seem as smart on paper are willing to work just as hard as anyone else.  If I ever have excess money to give away and BYU comes asking for more money, I’ll give a bit to my program, but will be more likely to give to the departments and faculty who provided more opportunities to succeed.

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