I Was A Lousy Student. Can I Get A Good Job With A Bad GPA?

iStockphoto.com ( Rawpixel )

iStockphoto.com (Rawpixel)


Recently finished college with a less than optimal grade point average? Concerned about your job prospects?

Don't panic. While it's true the class valedictorian will have a relatively easy job hunt, even graduates with GPAs on the lower end of the scale can have bright career prospects if they approach the situation strategically. Here are strategies to help you stand out and improve your chances of snagging a desirable career opportunity.

  • Embrace the fact that your degree has value. Even a medical school student who graduated at the bottom of his class earned the privilege of being called "Doctor;" the operative word here is "graduated." The university firmly believed you met the standards required for your degree, and that matters to employers.
  • Detail important life factors. Did you work your way through school as a single parent? Perhaps you funded 100% of your degree by cleaning dishes in the dining hall. Maybe you went back to school after a distinguished career, while managing substantial life responsibilities.  Explaining unique and challenging circumstances to a hiring manager can re-frame your college career in a positive light.
  • Showcase your applied experience. It's essential to clearly demonstrate your capabilities in both your resume and interviews. For example, if you're looking for a position as a computer programmer, detail how you've developed applications in class projects,  internships, or other initiatives which clearly show your applied mastery of the programming languages. If you still lack experience, work on independent projects independently to develop a portfolio of work.
  • Slice and dice your GPA to showcase your academic performance and capabilities. Was your grade point average higher in your major than in non-core classes? Perhaps your academic career started off poorly, but improved substantially over time. Or maybe you excelled in a subject relevant to the positions to which you're applying. Here are some examples:
    • GPA: 2.8 (3.7 Last Two Years)
    • MAJOR GPA: 3.6 (2.5 Overall)
    • GPA 2.8 (3.9 in Engineering Classes)
  • Highlight specialized or challenging coursework. Specific classes you've taken can open doors with hiring managers. If you're applying for a entry-level journalism position with a leading medical journal and you've taken a class on Healthcare Reporting, it should feature prominently on your resume. Likewise, be prepared to speak during the interview to demonstrate a strong understanding of industry-specific issues.
  • Show off relevant non-academic experience on your resume. The key here is to list activities which might impress an employer. Being elected Student Class President certainly qualifies, as does playing Quarterback on the football team. Maybe you were a business student and chaired the Marketing Club, or competed in the Robotics Club as an engineering major. The possibilities are vast, so long as what you demonstrate career relevance, applied leadership, or some other unique facet of your skills and personality.
  • Remember – your first job probably won't be your last. No matter how good or bad your first job out of college is, you'll be given the opportunity to build your skill set, establish a work history, and get a few professional wins under your belt. With time, the importance of your GPA will fade, and future employers will place greater (if not total) emphasis on your experience and skills.

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 scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.