How Can I Compete for Jobs with a Lower GPA?

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Mary from Texas State University asked:

How do I stand out against others when my GPA doesn’t reflect the hard worker that I am. I am trying to become an elementary education teacher but my overall GPA makes me afraid. It is a 2.98 overall but Texas State GPA is 3.25.”

Thanks for your question, Mary.  I hear this from quite a few students so know that you are not alone in your concern about your grades.  Of course, invest time and energy to get the best possible grades that you can.  Your university likely offers some tutoring and writing assistance that could help you increase your grades.  So, pursue this assistance if you can.

And, yes, grades are important, but not the only thing that prospective employers consider.  A 2016 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of over 200 employers found 3 candidate attributes ranking higher in value with these employers than a candidate’s GPA.  The top 3 ranking candidate attributes include: (1) student major, (2) held leadership position, and (3) involved in extracurricular activities / clubs.

Additionally, this same survey found employers value leadership, teamwork focus, and communication skills as the top 3 candidate attributes on a resume.  Knowing what employers in today’s job market value is powerful information.  Use these findings to build your strategy to enhance your value proposition to a prospective employer to include:

Get Involved on Campus

Take time to research options available on your campus by visiting your Student Life or Student Affairs office either in person or online.  Review the clubs and student organizations and take action to join a group or two in line with your interests and career goals.  If your campus has an education focused organization, join the group and get involved.  Don’t just join, but earn the opportunity to land leadership roles within this organization.  Joining clubs will not only boost your resume and value proposition to prospective employers, but can add to your college life experience by helping have more fun and build more relationships.

Visit Your Career Center

Your campus career center can be a valuable resource to help you get started in your career.  They’ll be able to partner with you to assist you to improve your resume, interview skills, LinkedIn presence, job search strategies, and more.  This campus resource can be a conduit to land internships, jobs, and connect with alumni in your field.

Connect with Your Professors

Make sure to get to know your professors, especially those in education.  Take advantage of their office hours by visiting occasionally as needed to ask for their advice and guidance.  If they get to know you, they might be willing to serve as a mentor, or at the very least, offer valuable insight and advice along with introductions that can be a springboard to landing your first job as a classroom teacher.  Lastly, they may be willing to also serve as a professional reference by receiving calls and / or emails from prospective employers as a part of a background check during the hiring process.

Build Your Network

By getting involved on campus through clubs and connecting with professors, you’ll be building a valuable arsenal of connections and contacts.  These are people who can offer tips, leads, referrals, introductions, and much more.  Networking (or connecting with people) is, was, and will always be the best job search method.  People hire people, not computers.  Also, utilize social media, especially LinkedIn to build your network, especially with those in your field.

Develop Good Communication Skills

Employer value candidates with excellent communications skills in recent college graduates as noted in the NACE survey above.  Employers know that recent college graduates may not always have all the necessary “hard” or learned skills needed for a job.  These employers will be more likely to hire a candidate who doesn’t have all of the relevant skills if the candidate possesses strong soft skills including excellent written and verbal communication skills.  Consider joining a local Toastmasters club to practice your presentation and verbal communications skills.  Possibly, your campus has some other opportunities available too.  Practice makes perfect here so you’ll be ready to send the right message when it counts on an interview.

Putting It All Together

Do everything you can to perform well in the classroom, but know there are many other things you can do to advance your cause and value proposition with a prospective employer.  Implement the above strategies to build the foundation as you move towards the finish line so you are well positioned to quickly land the job after you graduate.  Best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon


About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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