In Pursuit of Success: EQ vs GPA

Heart thumping. Mind racing. Hands shaking.

You’re facing the beast.

With a mighty click of your mouse, the beast emerges from its den. It looms larger than life. Smirking on a cold lifeless screen lies a grade holding testament to your academic efforts.

This string of daunting grades seems to be an unforgiving gauge of our potential work-life success. However, you would be relieved to know that the definition of a successful individual in the workforce has begun to include exceptional social skills too.

Emotional Quotient (EQ) has gained increasing value in the pursuit of graduate success as a subjective gauge of social skills in contrast to its more objective and academic counterpart, the well-acquainted and much feared Grade Point Average (GPA).

These two elements contribute to a large part of the identity puzzle that determines our sense of success in work life.

How does EQ fare against the GPA to determine graduate success?

I contacted University Careers Advisor, Monique Kassi, to find out more.

Emotional Quotient (EQ)

“EQ is an awareness of your actions and feelings,” Monique explains.

EQ is the ability to identify, understand and manage emotions within ourselves and others.

She cited psychologist Daniel Goleman1 who established five aspects of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness: The ability to recognise inner emotions, triggers and limitations.
  • Self-regulation: The ability to manage emotions to negate a negative effect.
  • Motivation: An inner drive derived from the joy experienced after an accomplishment.
  • Empathy: The ability to recognise, understand, and experience the emotions of another person.
  • Social skills: The ability to effectively interact and negotiate with other individuals.

These aspects that make up our EQ has gained traction amongst employers as an invaluable asset in the workplace. Employers frequently assess EQ through interview answers, life experiences and resumes based on these five elements. Monique mentions National Australia Bank and PwC Australia as examples of well-known employers who no longer assess job graduates on their university GPA.

“In a time with no guarantees of job security, when the very concept of a ‘job’ is rapidly being replaced by portable skills,” Monique adds “, [EQ] are prime qualities that make and keep us employable.”

The GPA has seemed to lose some of its value with the rise of an increasingly globalised world that emphasises the need to be socially adept as employers embrace early theories of psychologist, Edward Thorndike2, who believed that the ability to “act wisely in social relations” was a fundamental concept of overall intelligence.

However, one should never forgo their GPA in its entirety.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

Monique advises that GPA is still a “terrific asset to sell oneself to employers.”

Universities use the Grade Point Average (GPA) as a measure of our academic abilities to create discernible value from our education. It is an objective yardstick to convey advantageous characteristics to employers.

“A good GPA does provide signals to employers beyond academic excellence,” Monique explains,  “A consistent pattern of high marks suggests a student is reliable and diligent, and that they perform under pressure and care about their work.”

As such, the GPA provides a valid first impression towards employers in the domain of foundational knowledge, hard work and even… emotional resilience.

Underneath the academic façade of the GPA, employers are able to identify a subtle EQ aspect, the ability to self-regulate and deal with the competitive academic rigor.

The GPA thus remains a relevant first point reference worth investing time and effort in… unless you are the next Steve Jobs of course.

Even then, the Apple founder himself emphasised the need to seek balance. The balance between academia and life’s emotional trivia.

Striking the Balance

“When it comes to happiness and success in our relationships, career and personal goals, emotional intelligence matters just as much as intellectual ability,” Monique advices.

GPAs and grades are the foundation of stability and assurance in this competitive environment, however, EQ provides the intangible springboard to success.

Rejoice! As these skills are not fixed for any one student pursuing a University degree. One can seek improvement in both of these faculties.

Conventional wisdom harks upon the need for diligence and consistency to boost our GPAs. EQ on the other hand, remains a very subjective ability. Monique shares a tool to gauge and improve our EQ here.

She suggests participating in experiences that value-add on to our GPA via a side hustle or a volunteering opportunity to demonstrate our EQ abilities which employers will deduce from interviews and resumes.

Monique concludes that the “well-rounded graduate” is what employers are looking for.

She recommends to check in with the Careers and Student Development team which provides a range of services available to University of Newcastle students to help achieve their career goals from one-on-one consultations to professional skills workshops.


  1. Perloff R. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. The Psychologist-Manager Journal. 1997;1(1):21-22.
  2. Thorndike E. Measurement of Intelligence. Psychological Review. 1924;31(3):219-252.

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