Don't let bad grades hold you back from a good job

Here’s what you should focus on when you’ve got a low GPA.

Don't let bad grades hold you back from a good job

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

So maybe you didn't love school, but we're still going to give you a quick pop quiz.


A low GPA will:

A) 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.)

“Few interviewers are former valedictorians, and they don't necessarily expect the applicants to have graduated at the top of their class,” says Mitchell B. Langbert, an associate professor of business at the Brooklyn College Koppelman School of Business.

“It is true that some firms use grades as a sorting device for the first job, but there are alternatives.”

Other than grades, there are other things employers look for to “demonstrate dependability,” says Langbert.

Knowing that not everyone is an A-student, Monster spoke with career experts to find out how you can still get a good job, even if you’ve got not-so-good grades.

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 never have to use those subjects again. Instead of being hyper-focused on your weaknesses, hone in on the things that are brag-worthy.

Ronda Ansted, founder of Be the Change Career Consulting, recommends writing down at least 20 of your strengths.

“Once you know what they are, think about what you've done using those strengths. Include your accomplishments on your resume, not just a list of duties and responsibilities,” says Ansted. 

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.

Follow the philosophy of Drake and Rihanna

In the words of Drake, “Do you know your worth? Worth, worth, worth, worth, worth, worth, worth.” If not, follow Rihanna’s advice and “Work, work, work, work, work, work.”

Basically, 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.

 “Internships get your foot in the door, so you have an opportunity to prove yourself to a potential employer,” says Christopher K. Lee, founder of the career advice site PurposeRedeemed,.He adds that you will 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 asking yourself what you can do to make the most impact. Then, make sure you’re the first in line to volunteer for extra projects and new learning opportunities. 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...unless you're applying to a job at Medieval Times.

Use insider information 

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.

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.) 

Get to know the ins-and-outs of the company by going on informational interviews.

“Through informational interviewing applicants learn inside information that they can feed back to the firms during job interviews. They become the only candidates to know the facts about the company, what its culture is like, and the kind of skills that they value,” says Langbert.

And, if you don’t have the skills, you’ll know what you need to learn to get the job.

Show, don’t tell

Remember that you don’t have to tell anyone your GPA. Valerie Streif, a manager at a company that helps software engineers prepare for technical interviews, recommends applying to jobs that don’t require your transcript and simply leaving your GPA off your resume.

You can’t show off your grades, but you can (and definitely should) show what you know, she says.

“Submit a portfolio of your work. If you have quality examples of your work, your grades won't become a part of the conversation,” she says. Employers want to know that you'll be successful at work.

If you're applying to a programming job, they'll 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. Need some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Think of it as part of your continuing education with the promise of an A+ grade.