You're about to graduate from college and join the workforce – congratulations!
Unfortunately, your overall grade point average is less than stellar. And this could hurt you in your job hunt as employers compare you to other recent graduates who performed substantially better academically.
How do you mitigate a low GPA, and still look great on a resume or in an interview? Here are 6 strategies you can use to beat the low grade blues.
- Analyze the numbers behind the GPA to identify positive patterns. I personally started college quite poorly, garnering low grades my first and second years. I got my act together my Junior and Senior years, earning a substantially higher grade point average during that period; I was able to calculate a cumulative GPA for that period of time reflecting both solid academic performance and substantial improvement. I included both GPAs on my resume, side-by-side. You can also slice-and-dice your GPA by major, minor, business classes, and so forth to identify potential strengths.
- If you took difficult classes, spell these out on your resume. A curriculum heavy in hard sciences (i.e., organic chemistry or molecular biology) can be especially brutal on a GPA. Recruiters and interviewers are usually aware of this, and may be willing to cut you a bit of slack (or empathy). Create a section directly under your degree detailing "Notable Coursework" to detail these difficult classes.
- Get some professional experience. An internship or a part time/summer job providing real-world work can effectively mitigate a bad GPA. By getting real world experience, you validate that you are in fact employable, and you hopefully learned some valuable technical or business skills in the process to highlight on your resume and in interviews. Hiring managers like to see transferable work experience, as it reduces the learning curve and risk. Plus, you gather professional references who can speak to potential employers about your value and work ethic.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit organization. Not only does this provide many of the same benefits of professional experience as listed above, volunteerism also demonstrates an inclination toward making the world a better place. And yes, you can add volunteer work to a resume.
- Identify and address external factors which played a role in bringing your GPA down. Perhaps, while taking a full class load, you had to manage the family business. Or maybe you were a single parent. Or you had to serve as primary caretaker for your mother who was fighting terminal cancer. Or you had to earn and pay your own tuition. Life happens. You can provide important context on factors such as these to an employer in your cover letter or in an interview.
- If you were simply a lousy student, admit it. When an employer asks about your GPA, don't equivocate, don't avoid the topic, and don't get defensive. Own it. Explain that you were not a great student, you didn't put in the effort needed to get the good grades, and were fortunate to learn better study skills a bit too late in your college career. Then you can move on to the next topic, and highlight everything you did right.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.