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How can I find a job if my GPA is not stellar?


stevejobs2-600x337Luis at St. John Fisher College asked:

I am getting a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, but I think it is boring, and I need excitement and human contact in my career. Because I lost interest, my grades have suffered. How can I find a job if my GPA is not stellar?

Hi Luis –

Are you absolutely certain that pursing a career in accounting will not allow you the level of human contact and excitement you are seeking?

The reason I ask:  Very often people make generalizations about careers and career paths that cannot and should not be universally applied in all circumstances.  For example, . . . not all accounting jobs are the same, just as not all sales jobs are  the same.  There are many different kinds of engineers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, administrators, counselors, and technicians.  You can’t judge them all by the same standard.  They are all unique.

Now granted, accounting is not a professional typically associated with excitement or adventure, but there are many, many industries that require accountants and some of these are pretty exciting and require accountants with good people skills. So, before changing majors, make sure the subject matter is at the root of your boredom, and not something else.

You also mentioned that your grades have suffered a bit.  Do you think this is because you are not interested in the subject matter, or is it because you many not have as strong an aptitude for accounting  as you had originally thought?  Maybe your true gifts are in a field other than accounting?  Only you can answer that question.

Whatever you do, getting the most out of your college degree will require that you spend some time identifying precisely what “getting the most out of your degree” means to you.

Think about it . . .

How will you know if you got what you wanted out of your college degree if you can describe or define what you wanted to get out of your college degree i the first place? 

If you want excitement, what do you mean by that? What type of work excites you?

If you want a career that involves a lot of interaction with other people – what kind of interaction and in what context?

What college majors line up best with your skills, interests and talents? Which ones don’t?

I strongly recommend you visit with a career counselor at your University.  Your career center staff is there to help you answer these kinds of questions and develop strategies for moving forward with your degree, your career exploration and, eventually, your job search.

What if my GPA is not stellar?

It is not the end of the world. Having a low GPA will take you out of the running for some – but not all – jobs, so don’t let that hold you back from looking!

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.

A while back, 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 when it comes up in an interview:

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

The question is 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, a need to “restart” after changing your major) and is not indicative of your work ethic or your abilities, you have a very good story to tell prospective employers about your resiliency; about how you overcame adversity.

So, are you “lazy and not too bright” or have you “overcome some kind of challenge/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!).

Luis – don’t define yourself by your college major or your GPA.  Both are certainly part of who you area and what you offer to employers, but they do not tell your whole story.

Start exploring your options – you might be surprised by what you find!

Good luck,



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