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.