Can I get a job with a 2.2 GPA?

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Matt from Seton Hall University asked: 

I’m a senior and I have a 2.2 GPA. Is there any way I can still get a good job in the communications field or do I have no chance?

Hi Matt –

Thanks for this question.  I am sure you are not the only one asking it these days.  The economy is not the greatest right now, and there are a lot of anxious college seniors wondering what’s next.  There are a lot of ways to respond to your question, so I will do my best to give you a variety of answers.

Will  my low GPA get in the way of me finding a job?

Having a low GPA will take you out of the running for some – but not all – jobs, so you can’t use that as a reason not to look!

I can guarantee you one thing: If you don’t actively seek employment, you will not find employment.  You have to look for jobs, because they will not come looking for you.

For jobs that draw large volumes of candidates, some employers do use GPA as one of their screening criteria; frankly, it’s the only way to sift through the volume of applications they get in the amount of time they have to review candidates.

In some fields, particularly technical fields, GPA is a clear indicator of subject mastery, so a high GPA is really important.  Think about it – do you want to go to a doctor that graduated with 2.2 GPA?  How confident will you be in that doctor’s ability? When skills are easily quantified and measured, GPA is generally a good indicator of potential performance.

Can I still get a job in the communications field?

Yes, but you are going to have to be very focused in your efforts.  For example, what do you mean by the communications field?

As a specific field – like accounting, petroleum engineering, architecture – the “communications field” doesn’t exist.  Okay, it exists – it just isn’t easily defined or understood.  If you say you are going into law, sales or social work, everyone understands what you plan to do – you and your career objective are easily definable.  But if you say you are going into a communications field, no one really knows what you mean until you make it understandable for them – and that includes employers!

A couple of weeks ago I responded to the question “What is the best way for a first-timer to look for a job?” I think the advice I shared in that post applies equally well in here.  When you are looking for a job, an employer will consider you if and when you give them good reasons to do so.  Those reasons can include attitude, motivation, intellect, passion, academic performance, prior experience, specific training, specific interests, etc. . . . the list can go on and on, but if you are not able to tell an employer why they should consider you for a job, how can you expect them to figure it out?  Be prepared to market yourself to prospective employers.  Give them reasons to hire you.

Regardless of the jobs you pursue, you had better be ready to answer the following question:

Is your GPA reflective of your ability to perform in the workplace?

It’s going to come up.  You cannot avoid it altogether, so you better be prepared to have the conversation.  If your GPA is a reflection of your work ethic and your abilities, you may have a challenging time answering this question.  However, if your GPA is a result of a variety of very plausible factors (a bad freshman year, the need to work full-time and go to school full-time, documented test anxiety) and is not indicative of your work ethic or your abilities, you have a very good story to tell prospective employers of how you overcame adversity.

So, are you “lazy and not too bright” or have you “overcome some kind of adversity to earn your college degree”?  The story behind the GPA is what matters.

By the way, employers can generally tell when you are not being truthful with them, so don’t try to spin up a story that isn’t true to explain away your GPA.  Employers can also tell when you are being truthful and authentic (and they really appreciate it!).

Finally, here are three nuggets of wisdom I have shared in the past.  Keep them in mind as you prepare for the post-graduation job search . . . .

All college degrees are not created equal

So, you cannot compare them directly.  While accounting majors, engineering majors and architecture majors are all pursuing degrees that prepare them to enter very specific and clearly defined fields, in most cases, psychology majors, communication majors and university studies majors are not.  While it is easy for accounting majors to identify target employers, and it is easy for employers needing entry-level accountants to identify and evaluate potential candidates, the same cannot be said for students in majors that do not track linearly into specific professions or for employers who have job opportunities that require a diverse set of skills, education and experience.  Not all job searches are clear cut.  There are huge gray areas that you (the job seeker) need to clarify for prospective employers.

Why is that . . .

Employers don’t inherently “get” you, what you want, or what you offer

You have to make you understandable and valuable to employers.  Employer expect you to be able to tell them why you want the job they have to offer, why you believe you are a qualified candidate for that job, why you want to work for their organization and why you want to work in their industry.  As a job seeker, you have to prove to employers why you want and are qualified for the job they have.  And their expectations are not unrealistic. They don’t expect entry-level candidates to be able to respond to those questions in the same way an experienced candidate would respond, but they do expect you to have done your homework.  Needing a job is not a qualification for seeking a job.  You have to be very proactive and focused in your search, which leads me to my third point:

In order to find a job you want – one that fits you, your needs and your priorities –  you must first define yourself, your wants, your needs and your priorities

And, you must use that information to guide your search for employment.  Finding a job after graduation is a process.  It requires time, attention and focus.  It is not a simple transaction.  Too many people, I think, treat the job search like a transaction and then wonder why it is so hard to find a job.  Make sure you are investing your time and energy in the process.

Okay, that’s probably a lot more advice than you wanted, but it’s all important.

Need a little inspiration?  Consider the following:

Good luck with your job search,

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3 responses to “Can I get a job with a 2.2 GPA?”

  1. Louis says:

    Hi, I am currently a junior and a sociology major. I love the subject but the job prospects are scary when I graduate. I was thinking about getting a computer certificate or a business certificate to help supplement my degree to land a entry level recruiter or human resource job. I am not looking for a high paying job just something in the 25,000-30,000 range to have while I pursue a masters. Do you think this would be a good idea?

    • mattberndt says:

      Hi Louis – since everything as some kind of business component to it and just about everything we do these days involves computers in some way, I thing completing coursework and getting certified in business and/or computers is a good idea, regardless of your degree. That said, if you want to work in recruiting, I suggest getting internship experience in the field before you graduate to confirm your interest and enhance your qualifications (it’s not just about your degree). You should be able to find a job in the salary range you are targeting; I think you are being very realistic.

      You mention that you plan to get your Master’s degree. In what field? Before you enter into any graduate program, be sure you know what you hope and intend to get out of the degree. Just getting a Master’s (any Master’s) will not in and of itself make you a more qualified candidate for all jobs, so look before you leap!

      Good luck