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How to land a great job with an average GPA

Erin Delaney

Careers Commentator
Marks are important, but they aren't everything. If you have an average GPA, there are still plenty of ways you can land a great graduate job.

While it may seem like the end of the world when you’re getting passes or credits instead of the distinctions or HDs you’re aiming for, we’ve got good news… not all employers are hung up on your GPA.

While you might not be making the honours list any time soon, you can still make a serious impact on the industry you choose to go into.

Here’s how to job hunt with a low GPA:

1.  Get motivated and think outside the classroom

Don’t stress! Employers are looking at candidates holistically more and more, with most admitting to GradAustralia that extracurricular activities count just as much as academic performance. They want to get to know who you are, what motivates you, where you want to be in five years and what you have to offer their company just as much as how well you could recite bits of your lectures on paper within a two-hour timeframe. It might be a bit harder and take a bit longer to find your dream role, but like anything good it’ll be worth working for.

2. Know why, and feel confident saying so

When you didn’t get great marks, there was probably something a bit more to it. If you have a learning disability, being open and letting employers know will show the odds you overcame. Employers have great resources in place to support all kinds of situations and are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of disability. Were you too busy working just to get by? Awesome! Well done, you. You did what you needed to in order to put yourself through uni. Did you join too many committees, sports teams or edit the campus newspaper and feel like you’d be letting the side down by quitting? That shows dedication and loyalty. Whatever the reason is for your less-than-stellar grades, own it and find the silver lining. If there was anything you would have done differently, or could have done better, think about that too. Then practice explaining until it feels natural enough to say in an interview.

3.  Apply for a broad range of roles, not just your dream role

Your first job is only a first step, so make sure you keep your options open. If your dream role is in big enterprise, consider applying for jobs with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) too. You never know where a great opportunity might lie, and if you cast your net wide you’re bound to get a couple of bites. Graduate programs at SMEs attract a smaller volume of applications, giving yours a better chance to stand out. They can offer great opportunity for early responsibility and career development too.

4. Get connected – online and in the real world

As the old saying goes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Take the time to network at careers events, employer open days or even local business networking or startup meetups as it can lead to good opportunities later on. Look for ways to engage both in the real world as well as well as on sites such as LinkedIn. Do you have a family friend who runs a successful business, or have you struck up a good rapport with a recruiter at a careers fair? Connect with them! It’s much easier to convince someone who has seen your good qualities to take a chance on you than someone who doesn’t know you and is basing their assessment on a couple of A4 pages.

5. Build up your work experience

If having good grades is a layup, then having work experience in the industry you want to enter is a slam dunk. Or, in non-basketball terms, better. Work on getting an internship, cadetship, vacation spot or volunteer — do whatever it takes. Then add it to your CV and repeat steps 1-4 again.

6. Present your successes

While your GPA might not be great, you might have done really well in a particular subject or your grades might have gotten better later. If that’s the case, explain how you learned from your mistakes earlier in your academic career (changed to a more suitable unit, for example, or joined a study group). Did you work on a successful project that took your attention from another subject? Talk up the project, and how it might be valuable to the employer. While you want to veer away from excuses, there’s no harm throwing in your successes (when it’s relevant!).

7. Practice doing a great interview

Although resumes do play a role in landing your dream job, employers also look for people with motivation, ideas and the ability to grow with and in the business. They’re not just looking at your grades, but at what potential you have to grow into a great employee and benefit the company. Don’t be afraid to show your personality.

8. Level up

Ok, so your undergraduate grades weren’t mindblowing. But why not do some postgraduate qualifications, this time mobilising more support or making decisions that will guarantee your success? For example, getting a scribe, moving home, learning the word ‘no’, or losing the number of that guy who always invites you to uni bar? If a postgraduate qualification will boost your future applications, it’s definitely worthy of consideration. Determination to get better at something is an attractive quality to any employer, as are resilience and self-awareness.