Looking for your first real job post college is exciting, challenging, sometimes depressing and probably includes some descriptive words new graduates may not want to post on a professional social network. There are many factors to landing your new job including understanding the recruitment and selection process, creating connections during the interviewing process and bouncing back from a rejection letter or, in some cases, the excruciatingly painful “no response” time lag of rejection.

A big factor for some new graduates is what to do when the GPA is not at its finest. The average college graduate GPA in 2012 was 3.2. Studies indicate many recruiters today focus on new graduates with at least a 3.0 or greater. For many industries, the minimum may be 3.5. There are many factors involving a final grade for a class and the “why” is not the purpose of this blog.  As a former recruiter and as a career coach, I do see both sides of the coins and need to give a little admonishment with a wet noodle to organizations who make first screenings solely on GPA. With grade inflation present since 1950, GPA may not indicate additional talents the new graduate may have to contribute to an organization’s success.

What do you do when, for whatever reason, your overall GPA isn’t 3.0 or greater?          


1)      Get over it and rethink your strategy. That may sound harsh but try to move through your grieving process as quickly as possible. Yes, you can continue to apply for positions that have a high GPA as a minimum requirement, but at some point you will need to wrap up your reality check and create a Plan B and C.

2)      Focus on what you have learned and identify your strengths. Every project, internship, and volunteer opportunity, not to mention real, paid work, helps you develop work skills. These skills could be time management, event planning, project planning, decision making, budget management, platform skills, customer relations, team leadership, managing conflict, dealing with ambiguity, and technical skills such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. List your skills, working knowledge you gained from your academics and your personal strengths and get them on your resume.

3)      Network both in-person and through social media. Networking can be challenging for individuals who have a preference for introversion or who lack confidence. But in the words of Nike, “Just Do It.” The only way to improve on something is to try. Attend professional meetings and join local young professional groups through your local Chamber. Connect with anyone who can help you arrange an informational interview with someone in the job or future job you want. Informational interviewing is a powerful tool to learn career mapping and preparation from seasoned professionals. Join early careerist groups on LinkedIn in your field of study to learn from peers what is and is not working well in the job search process.

4)      Develop your business savvy and relationship skills. Managing your career includes many facets including education, ongoing training, using a mentor and building relationships. Whereas others may get the door opened because of their GPA, your doors may open as others see you as trustworthy, reliable, and present with polish.

5)      Be open to possibilities. I am the biggest proponent of doing what you love but sometimes that opportunity may not manifest itself until Job #2 or #3.  Job #1 many times is setting the stage for future doors to open as well as learning more about yourself including what you may learn to love.

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