How to Overcome a Low GPA And Get a Job Anyway

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In between fall and spring semesters, we opened up our doors to Anna Ma, a junior Econ major at Reed College. Anna spent a few days learning about what we do here at AfterCollege and shadowing people in different departments. To learn more about Anna’s externship with us, check out this post.

We asked Anna which issue of the job search was weighing most heavily on her mind and she said “how to deal with a low GPA.” Voilà! We asked her to do a little research and writing for us and that’s how this guest post came to be.

Having a low GPA may seem like the end of the world while searching for a job, but if you survived the predicted Mayan apocalypse, then it isn’t the end just yet.

A low GPA means that you just have to present yourself through your other accomplishments on your résumé. As you gain more experience working, you can fill out your résumé and your GPA will soon be forgotten.

Here are the steps you can take to make sure that you shine in the best light possible while job hunting.

1. Highlight your major GPA

If your major GPA is higher than your overall GPA, make sure to highlight that! Don’t let those darned science/math/English classes hold down your GPA if they aren’t in your major! You can also list relevant coursework for the position you’re applying for without revealing your actual GPA.

That said, if your major GPA isn’t much better, or is worse than your overall GPA, leave that out of your résumé and read on for other ways to overcome a low GPA.

2. Network, network, network!

Networking will become your best friend and strength. If you have a low GPA, it will be important to know people who can direct you to other people they know and can speak to your strengths. Getting good recommendations can also help bolster you. Finding the right recommender is important. A professor who has witnessed your best work would be ideal because they can speak to your ability to perform and your academic accomplishments.

Expanding your network will be important no matter what, but it is especially important when you have a low GPA. Getting to know people personally gives you the chance to show and speak to your abilities more effectively than an online job application and your résumé can. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking!

3. Learn how to talk about your GPA

Be prepared to talk about your low GPA if asked about it, and be honest in your explanation. While some employers will make a big deal about your GPA, there are employers who will care more about other aspects of your résumé, such as your work experience. Don’t fret—if asked about it, explain what may have happened that impacted your GPA, but also highlight how you overcame it or got through it (e.g., you were a “late bloomer” and you might have had a bad freshman year but improved every year after that).

Be cautious about how much you want to reveal in explaining your low GPA if there were personal issues that got in the way of your grades. In that case, you may want to avoid the topic, or spend some time thinking about how you can explain it in a way that won’t hurt your prospects.

Being prepared will help you market yourself to employers so you don’t get caught off-guard and end up revealing how partying away your freshman year brought down your GPA!

4. Work on other aspects of your résumé

Whether it’s working on campus or joining clubs you are passionate about, having a fuller résumé will show that you didn’t simply spend all day in your room playing League of Legends instead of going to class but instead were involved in on-campus activities.

Again, some employers will be more interested in your work experience rather than your GPA, and having something to show for that will interest some employers much more than your GPA. Having extracurriculars, work experience, and internships can show employers much more about your work ethic, experience, and dedication than a GPA can.

5. Take extra classes

If you are still in school, taking extra classes could help boost your GPA. If there are classes known to be easy, and you have the time to take them, you might want to consider this technique. It’s an easy way to boost your GPA, and you’re learning more in the meantime!

If you are out of school, you can still take extra classes at a local college to show that you have the initiative and drive to continue learning and keep going to school even though you’ve earned your undergraduate degree. Although these extra classes won’t affect your undergraduate GPA, taking them will show employers that you have the motivation to continue learning, and that will impress them more than your GPA.

6. Be strategic in your job search

Unfortunately a low GPA will probably bar your from being hired by some prestigious companies, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll end up working in fast food for the rest of your life!

Being strategic about where to look for jobs will boost your likelihood of being hired. Not all firms will consider your GPA as an important part of the hiring process.

Goldman Sachs may not hire you, but some firms will be more holistic and less competitive in their hiring practices, and doing your research will help you figure out which firms will be more likely to overlook a low GPA so that you have a greater chance of being hired.

Finding the right places and making a case for yourself and proving your worth to a company will improve your chances of being considered for a job no matter what your academic standing.

With a low GPA, it will take more work to get a job, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t get one! You just have to be able to show future employers that your GPA does not define you, and show off your other qualities and accomplishments instead. Remember, not all employers care about your GPA, and some will care more about the other aspects of your résumé, like your work experience. Don’t make excuses—make a plan!

Homework time! Are you freaking out about your GPA? If so, which of Anna’s tips are you planning to follow? Let us know in the comments.

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19 Responses to “How to Overcome a Low GPA And Get a Job Anyway”

  1. How Do Jobs Check Gpa | New Job Today

    […] How to Overcome a Low GPA And Get a Job Anyway – … – In between fall and spring semesters, we opened up our doors to Anna Ma, a junior Econ major at Reed College. Anna spent a few days learning about what we do here at …… […]

    Reply
  2. Do Jobs Check Gpa | Develop My Career

    […] How to Overcome a Low GPA And Get a Job Anyway – … – In between fall and spring semesters, we opened up our doors to Anna Ma, a junior Econ major at Reed College. Anna spent a few days learning about what we do here at …… […]

    Reply
  3. taylor

    What if you’re an introvert who doesn’t like interacting with people a lot. Networking can be really overbearing at time and mind numbing?

    Reply
      • Taylor

        Another question. How do you leave you job you don’t want to stay can’t find any jobs you are qualified for that are but not are in any of the fields you want to pursue.

        Reply
      • Taylor

        Couldn’t find the answers I was looking for. I guess I was looking for how can you network if you are someone who doesn’t like networking, even if you know. I didn’t even like doing door-to-door surveys or telemarketing when I did that.

        Reply
  4. Aidan

    Thanks for posting this. My GPA is pretty low (2.64) but I work my butt off all the time. It is emotionally scarring since I always feel like it’s a scarlet letter in today’s environment. I know there’s other methods but I’ve never had a job or working experience. Heck, getting it today feels like it’s impossible. I just feel like no matter how hard I try, I will never get a job in my chosen field of study. I hate to sound like a Debbie Downer, but it’s how I feel inside.

    Reply
    • Melissa Suzuno

      Hi there, thanks for stopping by. We’re glad to hear that you enjoyed this post. I really wouldn’t worry about your GPA too much. Sure there are some super competitive companies that might care about it, and it’s important if you want to get into grad school. But a lot of employers don’t even ask for it, especially once you get a few years of experience under your belt. If you do have the chance to start getting some work experience now, that’ll really help you once you graduate. It’ll give you something to share with potential employers other than your GPA and it’ll also help you build your confidence in your professional abilities.

      Reply
  5. andrew

    hi thanks for the post…you see the thing is that i also have a low gpa (73% final average), 4 years of experience at a family business(administrative officer). and my dream since childhood was to work in a decent prestigious firm to fulfill my dreams. i have big dreams!!!! i always wanted to work at Deloitte or any of the big four but my crappy gpa is haunting and frustrating me and stopping me from doing so. i don’t want to work in a “lame” company. you see the more prestigious the company the higher the salary the more successful you are and the better the social life is. what do i do? is there still hope for me? or am i screwed for life? i see all the successful people around me and it is eating me on the inside. PLEASE tell me. thank you for your kind attention.

    Reply
    • Melissa Suzuno

      Hi there, let me just start by saying I can’t really speak to your chances of getting into a top 4 firm specifically. I just know that they tend to be highly competitive in every aspect of the selection and hiring process. You mention a few things that are important to you, like earning a high salary and having a good social life, but you don’t say much about what you type of work you actually want to be doing. If you haven’t already, I would spend some time seriously thinking about what you enjoy doing and what skills you already have. You mention that you have worked at a family business for four years already – that’s great! What have you learned there, both in terms of actual skills you’ve developed and about yourself and your professional goals? Take time to write that out and practice explaining it to recruiters or hiring managers. I’d also suggest doing some research into the large firms you’re interested in to find out how important GPA is to them. Many of these types of companies have FAQ pages and other resources on their websites to help potential applicants. I’d also try to be more specific about what you consider a “lame” company. Large, prestigious companies are not the best fit for everyone, so you might find that you’d actually enjoy working in a smaller, lesser-known firm if you gave it a chance.

      Reply
      • andrew

        I really appreciate you taking the time and answering my questions, and yes you are right: i should investigate the qualifications of the the big four. i still have a certain matter: by ‘lame” company i mean those companies that don’t pay a decent salary and are not prestigious enough: i am talking like less than 60k per year. you see i have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in general business administration (124 credits). i am aiming to work as an administrative officer and hopefully top management someday. with a GPA of 2.65. and considering all these qualifications, in your expertise: if i get recruited by companies other than the big four is it possible for me to make a six figure salary with the attributes mentioned above? sorry if i am bothering you with these annoying questions. thank you.

        Reply
        • Melissa Suzuno

          Hi Andrew, you’re not bothering us with your questions, but unfortunately we don’t really have enough information to answer. I’d suggest doing some research on websites like PayScale, Salary, and Glassdoor to learn more about the exact salary range you can expect for your position, industry, and location. You could also check in with the Career Services office at your school to learn more about what graduates with your major and academic background have gone on to do. And regarding your GPA, some companies might care about that for your first job right out of school, but once you get a few years of work experience under your belt, most employers won’t even ask you about it. I hope this helps!

          Reply
    • Chusuck Dong

      Yeah, you may be screwed for life… but not because of your crappy GPA, it’s because you are either lazy or unmotivated.
      How did you managed to get a 2.65 in BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION?!? I don’t care if you went to school at Harvard University, you must have slacked hard or partied all the time to have screwed up so badly. Everybody else here is going to pamper you apparently, I’m not. You should have tried harder. I have about and average apptitude, and yet managed to graduate with a 3.45 in chemistry because I went out a grand total of around 4 times in my 4 YEARS at college. I had to study everyday from sun up to sundown to PASS classes, not to get an A, but to PASS. However, I knew tons of folks that I’m sure were not half as smart and/or motivated as I am, that got straight A’s in Business Admin. programs while maintaining a flourishing social life. So yeah, you are a scrub, and you will likely never work at a the place you have naively dreamed of working. Grow up.

      That said, there are tons of places that will hire you if you can interview well, and you are willing to be diligent and integretous. Give up your dreams if you are not willing to work harder, or work you ass off till you make it happen. Nobody is going to just give you anything. The harder you work, the higher your salary will be. Did you really think you’d be making six figs right out of the gate? How naive.

      Reply
  6. Milla

    Hi, I have a low overall GPA as in currently a 1.6 which I am hoping to improve before graduation in about a year, but I have a 3.15 major GPA. That big difference is because I switched majors so I do have a lot of credits in another department, and a few gen eds classes which I have failed/or gotten poor grades due to personal issues. I am a business management major, and have had non-paid positions at several organizations on campus since I started college 4 years ago. I’m a business major at a relatively prestigious school in Florida. Do I have any chances at getting a job after graduation? I guess it is important to mention that I am an international student. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
  7. Sami

    Hello there, getting a low GPA could put me in a position that I’m not able to do anything but stay calm. But, I had to go throw many problems while I was in the 3rd and 4th year because my dad was very ill as he got cancer and I had to check on him every time and also I had to spend most of those 2 years watching the news because my country was under a heavy war as my family was there, as at that period my mind was totally complicated! However, I did my best to study and getting a good grade, but its economics, you enter the exam section, you finished by saying I solved very well, then you end up with a bad grade! I know myself I’m good while working in serious job (practical life), but into studying not that much! I finished my education with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics with a GPA about 2.41, as I was studying abroad way along from family; I’m looking forward to continue my life in UAE (Abu Dhabi) and start applying for a job as a business Consultant over there, but I don’t know if my GPA would help me. What do you suggest concerning the how I interact talking about my low GPA and is that would help me? And of course I’m not going to say that to let them feel that I should get the job as I’m only saying that to assure them I’m a hard worker in the practical life but not good into education system.
    Thank you

    Reply
  8. Taylor

    Will a low GPA always be burden someone wants to get into more prestigous or competive companies? Will work experience or extra classes not make up for that? My biggest fear is getting stuck in the jobs that are mostly for low ambitious workers.

    Reply
  9. Shery

    Hello. I’m also struggling with a low gpa (below a 2.5) and I’m afraid of what my future holds at this point. I’m pretty involved in college and I’ve had internships in high school but I’m not sure if that’ll be enough. I’ve worked so hard but when I don’t do well, I know it’s not enough. It’s just depressing to think about the fact that I graduated from high school with a 3.5 and now it’s down to this. Please help

    Reply

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