Don't Let Bad Grades Hold You Back From a Good Job

Do you need good grades to get a good job?

Don't Let Bad Grades Hold You Back From a Good Job

A low GPA doesn’t mean you’re unemployable.

If you struggled your way through algebra or physics in high school or missed a few too many econ lectures in college, you might not have a stellar GPA when you graduate. But, really, does GPA matter for jobs in the real world? Short answer: It depends.

Certain fields such nursing, law, and engineering will likely put more weight on your academic performance than less study-intensive fields. But if you’re not pursuing a specialized field and are wondering if you need good grades to get a good job, you’ve got a much better shot.

We know you didn't love school, but we're still going to give you a quick pop quiz:

A low GPA will:

A) Always prevent you from getting a good job

B) Be a conversation starter at interviews, happy hours, and dates forever

C) Not prevent you from getting a good job ... if you strategically overcompensate

The answer is C. (Which, incidentally, might be a letter grade you're familiar with.)

It’s more than likely that your future manager wasn’t their high school’s valedictorian either and won’t expect job candidates to have aced every class. While some employers look at grades or GPA when an applicant doesn’t have much work experience, there are other ways to show them that you’re ready to buckle down and get the job done.

Not everyone is an A-student. Here’s how you can still get a good job, even if you got bad grades in college.

Focus on Your Strengths

You might not be a star at physics, geometry, or history, but the good news is you can find a job where you rarely have to use those subjects again. Instead of being hyper-focused on your bad grades and weaknesses, home in on the things that are brag-worthy.

Start by writing down at least 20 of your strengths. Then, take some time to think about how you’ve used your strengths, and list those accomplishments under each . If you're still in college or are early in your career, it's okay if you don’t have a lot of work experience yet. Show how you used your strengths to succeed in your extracurricular activities.

If you’re applying to an administrative assistant position and you’ve been a camp counselor, the hiring manager will be impressed by the fact that you managed 50 unruly campers, created schedules and plans, and communicated with parents on a weekly basis. That kind of organization will serve you far better in an admin role than getting an A+ in calculus.

Bad Grades? Impress With an Internship

You can put your GPA on a job application, but to a lot of employers, experience trumps grades. And while you can’t drum up better grades, you can most certainly get the kind of experience that will lead to a good job—by doing an internship or two.

Through an internship, you can show potential employers that you know how to succeed in a work environment. You’ll also learn what you like and dislike and gain skills that will be helpful throughout your career.

Even if you didn’t get A’s in school, you can really shine at an internship and that first job by being proactive:

  • Continuously ask yourself what you can do to make the most impact.
  • Make sure you’re the first in line to volunteer for extra projects.
  • Seize new learning opportunities and embrace challenges.

Your employers will be thrilled, and a glowing letter of recommendation from your boss will carry more weight than one from your History of Medieval Warfare professor.

Use Insider Information During a Job Interview

So you won’t be able to impress interviewers using Latin such as summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, but you can wow them by showing that you understand the company and industry.

Get to know the ins-and-outs of the company by doing your research and going on informational interviews. Asking current employees the right questions can give you insight into a company’s culture, mission, and the traits and skills they value in candidates. Then, use this insider information during a job interview to show a company that you’ve done your research.

You’ll certainly make more of an impact than a star student who gets stumped when the interviewer asks why they want to work at the company. (You don’t get a multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank question for that.)

And, if you don’t have the skills an employer is looking for, an informational interview will let you know what you need to learn to get the job.

Show What You Know

Remember that you don’t have to tell anyone your GPA—try applying to jobs that don’t require your transcript and simply leave your GPA off your resume.

You can’t show off your grades, but you can (and definitely should) demonstrate your talents. Employers want to know that you'll be successful at work. Create and submit a portfolio of work samples along with your resume and cover letter, and your grades won’t be a conversation point during the interview.

If you're applying to a programming job, employers will care a heck of a lot more about the websites and apps you’ve built than the fact that you failed Environmental Geology ... twice.

Be an Overachiever at Getting a Job

It really doesn’t matter if you didn’t “live up to your potential” before now. The time to get focused is today. The key to presenting your best, most professional self when you apply to jobs is having a smart resume. Monster can help you find a job quickly by showcasing the traits employers are looking for in entry-level applicants.