ABCs Of Your Career Journey – G Is For Grade

by Elizabeth Carter

When I was in school, there were certain classes I looked forward to getting my grades and others that I wished I could have had a pass/fail grade. I was a good student but certain subjects like trigonometry were just tough. Those tests and quizzes would come back with lots of red marks and a grade that was not to my liking.

As I left undergraduate and graduate school, grades stopped. There may be annual reviews with some metrics but overall no one said to me “that project was an A or a B”. No boss or colleague ever thought to provide a letter grade for my work and/or for the overall year. I also never thought to grade myself for a completed assignment.

As we go through our career journey, how do we move forward if we don’t know what our grades are? How do we recognize when we did a C+ job on a project which was OK for that client but may not be for the next? How do we evaluate a presentation we gave when we might have been nervous? How do we know how long a report should be? All these questions may seem “elementary” but in reality without a grading system it is difficult to evaluate ourselves.

Here is an example; I had a client that was in a senior role at a Fortune 500 company. He knew he was well-respected and that the executives valued his work. As his coach, he asked me how does he keep that momentum going or in other words how does he keep getting higher grades when he is already producing excellent work. Alternatively, how does he know if he slips from an A- to a dreaded B+?

The other issue that needs to be considered is that people handle grading differently. I have had discussions with some professors that I work with about grading. As an Adjunct Professor, I am not sure if I am an easier grader than others but things that I notice in a student’s paper or exam may not be an issue for another professor and vice versa. Usually within the first few weeks of a semester, I can sense my “A” students but then it gets trickier with those that fall below that. I have also witnessed that some of my better students struggle with more creative assignments and my students who never receive “A”s rise to the challenge. How do you evaluate all of them on the same grading system?

As one reviews their career, there may be positions where the work environment was such that you would have received an “A” and in others it was not the case; not through any fault of your own but due to extenuating circumstances i.e. bad economy, lost client, etc. It is important then to evaluate each position you have had and assign it a letter grade. This will help determine what you need to look for in your next position within your company or a new organization. In addition, determine what resources you may have had that helped you with getting that grade.

Moving forward, take the time to give yourself a grade for each assignment, project, report, or presentation that you do. Ask others for their opinions and before you reveal the grade you gave yourself have them provide their assessment. Regardless if the grades differ a little or a lot, it opens the door for interesting discussions on how you can start or continue to have the career of your dreams.