Career Q&A: How to Get a Job When You Have a Low GPA

How much does GPA matter when you’re job hunting?

Q: Everything is so much more competitive these days. Will I ever get a good job when I graduated with a 2.0 GPA?
A: Some elite employers have policies requiring a certain GPA (usually a 3.0 or higher), and there is generally no way around that rule. To get a job with one of the gazillions of other employers in the world, a low GPA is a completely surmountable challenge.

In some cases you can squeak through by demonstrating that you’ve achieved better grades in your particular major or in classes related to the job to which you’re applying. For this strategy, you can list your “major GPA” or “grades from relevant classes” on your resume, in a cover letter or verbally during a job interview.

Here’s the most important thing about GPA: it matters less and less as you advance in your career and have more experience under your belt (no one asks a 52-year-old executive what grade she got in Freshman Econ). Applying the transitive property of career advice, this means that if you want your GPA to matter less, you need to make your experience matter more.

Understand that employers use GPA to gauge a few things about you:

•    Your intelligence
•    Your discipline
•    Your ambition

Good grades imply that you are smart, serious and motivated. Mediocre grades imply the opposite. So, if you’re just not a good student or you slacked off in school, you need to show that you possess the attributes of someone with a higher GPA.

How? You can do this through impressive internships and letters of recommendation confirming your intelligence and work ethic. You can do this through consistent participation in extra curricular activities or volunteer work to show that you have discipline. You can do this by taking additional classes to show that you are interested in developing yourself.

If you have a low GPA, you’ll also need to alter your job search accordingly. A resume with a low GPA will likely never make it out of the slush pile, so your better bet is to find jobs through networking rather than online resume submission. On several occasions I’ve been impressed by eager, ambitious, engaging young people who have later told me they have low GPAs. Once I liked and trusted them, the GPA mattered a lot less. In other cases, I’ve never even asked about a person’s GPA simply because he came so highly recommended from someone I know and trust.

p.s. Since you are not required to list your GPA on your resume (I suggest only listing a GPA of 3.0 or higher), some employers may never even ask about your grades. If you get lucky and GPA is never mentioned, you are under no obligation to reveal it.

How important has your GPA been to your job hunt? Share your experience in the Comment section below!

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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