Skip to main content

How to get a great job with terrible grades

A low GPA doesn’t mean you’re unemployable

How to get a great job with terrible grades

Graduation day is fast approaching, and all those promises you made yourself about boosting your grades haven’t been fulfilled. As you prepare your post-graduation job search, you might find your GPA is a liability.

There are ways to mitigate the problem, though — and get a great job with terrible grades.

Here’s how.

Look for internships

Getting ahead of the game through internships can help position you for the jobs you want, says Kenneth L. Johnson, president of East Coast Executives. “If you are able to get directly on the radar by interning or volunteering with a company that is on your bucket list of preferred destinations, it is the chance of a lifetime. This experience can serve as a working interview and provide a front seat to current and future openings.” Also, the network you build can serve as references for internal or external opportunities, Johnson says.

Stress relevant experience

Make a list of your relevant experience — skills or abilities that would help you contribute right away — and find a way to highlight it, says John Paul Engel, president of Knowledge Capital Consulting. “For example, were you an Eagle Scout? That shows commitment, ability to work in an organization, and range of skills.” Do you understand the employer’s problems and have ideas to solve them? Highlight those, too.

Explain, if it’s relevant

Bad grades aren’t necessarily a sign of laziness or low effort. If there are important mitigating circumstances for your grades, find a way to make that clear, says Dennis Tupper, corporate recruiter at the Eliassen Group. "Explain how you learn, what you bring to the table and why those two things make you the best candidate for the position.” For example, if you are stuck taking blue-book essay tests and writing 10-page papers when you do better on constructive tests, that may be important to mention.

Consider jobs where GPA doesn’t matter

Soft skills such as communication and personality are hard to grade, and so looking into a job that relies on them can help you find something great without relying on your grades. “Sales is one of the most lucrative jobs where GPA doesn't matter,” Engel says. “If you have great communication skills and interact well with others you can have a very successful career. Nothing happens until someone sells something to someone else.”

Engel suggests looking at jobs in B2B sales, real estate and insurance. Customer care, home health care, food service management and call center management are also options, and creative jobs such as graphic design rely more on portfolios than grades.

Justin Davis, a real estate agent at Village Properties, agrees with the advice about real estate. “I suggest that these grads get into real estate, at least until they can secure a job in the field they went to school for. However, if they're good, they may never want to get out of real estate!”

Davis says his company keeps its eyes open for fresh talent. Hiring is less about GPA and “more about the prospect's people-skills, networking ability, ability to sell, marketing and self-promotion prowess, and, if they happen to be coming from another real estate brokerage, past performance.”

Back to top