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Is it better to get good grades or to make connections?

Hi, there!

I'm curious as to how to succeed in school, and I'd love to know what my priorities should be. A lot of people have told me that connections are the best resource we get from college, and that it's what most helps with our aspirations.

I'm hoping to become a photojournalist, and I've become involved in various clubs, and I've also gone on some career fair/networking events on and off campus. At the same time, I'm doing my best to maintain a 4.0, though it's becoming harder as time passes. So I figured: why not try to figure out what I need to focus on and make time for?

So to anyone who's already "made it", what got you to where you are: grades or connections?

#journalism #online-media #online-journalism #broadcast-media #broadcast-television #writing-and-editing #writer #photojournalism #networking

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Arlyd’s Answer

I have found that good work ethic, good additute and the ability to learn quickly when being trained has served me well. Good grades prove your ability to learn and that you've prioritized your time while in college. Both show that you are serious about you field. Connections naturally occur as you work with people or socialize in your field. Having connections may get your foot in the door but the quality of your work and additude will keep you there. If your work is really good, people will seek you out to make that connection.

Agree with Arlyd - good grades show your ability and willingness to learn new things and take on challenges. Connections are also very important. If you know any adults that work in that field you are interested in, ask if their company has any internships available. If they don't, ask if you could job shadow for a day or two....both are a great way to make connections and get a foot in the door, while learning new skills. Sheila Appleton

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Barry’s Answer

Hi, Astrud!

Thanks so much for reaching out. If you are as much of a go-getter as you need to be in order to make it in this (or any) business, you are naturally going to gravitate toward the people and organizations who will help you advance. That goes for grades and for practical experience.

Now, that said, I mentored a guy once who said that while he was a senior in college, he was "kicked out" of his college radio station which broadcast the football and men's basketball games. He said that two recent alumni said they were returning to call them and the current students wouldn't be allowed.

Now, I don't know how/why that happened, nor do I care. My advice to him was not to take "no" for an answer? He threw his arms up in despair, saying "What was I supposed to do?"

That response is WAY different from a fire-in-the-belly version of "What AM I supposed to do?" This guy, rather passively, put up little resistance to the situation.

BTW, what could he have done? He could have asked for a press credential from his school's sports information director, used his laptop & cell phone's hotspot internet connection to call the games himself on a website of his choice (or original design). Further, he could have advertised all over the campus, "This is the only place to hear a STUDENT broadcast of student sporting events." In other words, shoved it right back in those other guy's faces.

Here's what I didn't have the heart to tell the kid (since his mother is a friend of mine) - if I have to tell you to do those kinds of things, you're never going to make it.

Now in your case, Astrud, let's approach it from the other way. If you have that get-up-and-go and fire-in-the-belly, you may not have all the answers about what to do in instances like the one I just mentioned, but you'll ask for advice and you'll seek/find the right people. Thus, don't worry about making connections, per se. If your thought process each day is, "what can I do to get better/improve/do more," then the rest will happen.

I can't promise you how long that process will take. Your break could come in a matter of months, or it might take years. I could give you examples of both, if you want to email me privately, but just put your head down and work hard.

Hope this helps,

Barry Abrams

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Stefania’s Answer

Congratulations on all your achievements thus far and for the vision you have ahead. Actively thinking about what you need to do to get there is already a wonderful step you are taking! As far as grades versus connections, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. You are obviously a strong academic student, and that will take you far. When you don't have the experience and are just starting out, it's the first benchmark people will have of your performance. So I don't think compromising your academic standing a decision you have to make. If, however, maintaining a high GPS is starting to cause you great stress, anxiety, etc then maybe look into some ways to counter that stress with non-academic activities that fuel your passion.

Connections and networking will always be important at any stage of your professional career as a student and more importantly even, once you get into the workforce. Making the right connections, and maintaining those connections is very important as a long-term goal and will be valuable in getting you a first internship or other important milestones.

A very important third part of this equation that you may want to consider is obtaining some hands-on experience. As a photo journalist, you can start building a portfolio of your work. If for some reason your grades alone do not showcase your talent, then your portfolio will compensate and/or complement your grades.

Good luck.


Hi David!

Thanks for your comment. Commenting as an email reply because this comment is not appearing in the original landing page I answered the question on. To answer your questions:

1) Managing networking and school can be time consuming, however networking does NOT have to be exclusively in person. If you carve out a certain amount of time during your week (say you dedicate an hour a week to networking efforts), you can network with individuals by tactfully reaching out to them by social media or email, etc and you can continue networking by maintaining some of those relationships. This could mean a simple email reach out every couple months or sharing an article you came across that may be helpful or relevant on the receiving end.

2) Networking with individuals we don't know can definitely be intimidating and stressful. It takes practice and confidence. Yes, I certainly do have some tips and techniques. There are certain elements that should always be essential. The main goal of networking is really to get your message out, gather information, exchange information, present yourself and position yourself as a solution (this is a personal statement often referred to as an elevator pitch) and to meet industry insiders or "bridge" people that will ultimately be valuable contacts or serve to connect you with hiring managers. For in person networking events, crafting and memorizing a "personal statement" or <2 minute elevator speech is one good way to have an accessible, scripted piece at all times. It should include elements such as who you are, your background and your career objectives and intentions.

"I am a career strategist. I have a marketing background and a master's in psychology. Career development is an area, which has seamlessly aligned my training, education and an inherent desire I have to transfer my knowledge and skills from the development and growth of products, to people. My objective is to make some strong connections, gain experience and ultimately secure a position in a higher education setting."

A less intimidating way to network is online. Looking up companies that interest him/her, joining their social media feeds/groups and then ultimately reaching out to the right people via email, etc is an effective and good way to go too. Happy to help answer any more questions if needed!

Hope that was helpful,

Hi Stefania! Thank you so much for the amazing advice you provided to Astrud above. I had a few follow-up questions I wanted to ask out of curiosity: 1. In your personal experience, how have you managed to balance school alongside networking? I find that the two can be pretty time-consuming for me. 2. For people who may find networking to be difficult, do you have any tips or techniques that helped you connect with a lot of people? Thank you so much in advance. Best, David David Ohta COACH

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Pasquale’s Answer

Astrud: Grades and contacts can be intertwined; not an either-or situation. If you have contacts without the stellar performance, the payoff is questionable. If you have something you've done that gets attention -- and attention can come from grades, some published photos, a competition win -- it brings added credibility. That makes you stand out to contacts.

Not long after I graduated from journalism school, I got an offer to interview with a publication very similar to one I worked at in college, as part of my coursework. I'd also worked in a work-study program helping with publications for the university employees. I loved doing this work, and the passion helped me to do well, and the performance led to job interviews. This also led to a job interview with another campus location, doing the same publication work I loved.

I can't say that my focus was on grades; it was about writing, learning more about great writing, and improving my work. Grades are just one measure of that.

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Karen’s Answer

Both are equally important, Good grades attest to your ability to get the job done while good contacts and networking attest to your ability to communicate and collaborate with others. Both skill sets are critical in today’s workplace!