BEYOND YOUR GPA: The Importance of Networking

WRITTEN BY: Jessica Chan, Newsletter Editor, The Actuarial Science Club

Within the U of T actuarial science community, there is an emphasis on becoming a better student and job candidate by looking beyond our GPAs. Throughout the year, the U of T Actuarial Science Club tirelessly organizes information & networking sessions, conferences & other social events to build a community between students and the industry. Take, for example, the ASNA conference hosted every January. For 2 days, hundreds of actuarial science students gather together to network with professionals, learn more about the industry and meet their fellow students. Some of the events on the itinerary include seminars hosted by industry leaders, a career fair, interviews, coffee chats, socials, and a case competition. While there is no academic-based learning throughout the conference, it is arguably some of the most productive days each year for an actuarial science student.

At the University of Toronto, there is an undeniable emphasis on the importance of a high GPA ingrained in a culture of deep rooted competition. Unlike some colleges that operate on a Pass/Fail system, U of T’s 4.0 grade point scale encourages the constant pursuit of marks. To top it off, we also have some of the lowest average GPAs in the country. So it’s understandable that most students are caught in a constant state of “I need to be studying or else I’m wasting time!”. But this isn’t necessarily the only, or best, way to secure a job post-graduation.

Statistics show that networking and personal connections are how most jobs are found. So why do most students continue to prioritize their GPA over career/industry-related events? One explanation may be the delayed and uncertain reward of networking. A couple of hours of studying produces predictable, direct & tangible results on an upcoming exam. However, the connections you make from a networking event likely yield nothing. So why attend them at all?

Because while 99% of the people you meet at networking events will never contact you again, it is the 1% that is worth chasing. Because the 1% that recommends you for jobs or opens doors for your career will benefit for years after you’ve forgotten the mark you got on your exam.

The catch is, you can’t meet the 1% without going through the 99%.

The importance of building a personal network and taking the time to understand your field outside of a textbook is undeniable. It’s an unpredictable reward system, but it’s much more fruitful than a high GPA. So instead of sticking to the safety and comfort (albeit painful) studying for hours on end, we encourage you to attend a networking or social event next time. Look beyond your GPA in how to make yourself more valuable and improve your chances of securing a job after graduation.

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