Many of my students visit my desk and frequently ask: “Sir, I have a low CGPA. What should I do now?”. And, I believe that many students in other universities have the same question to ask.
Now, if I ask you the same question—“Does your CGPA really give your prospective employers an accurate picture of your abilities and potentials?”— what would be your response? You may want to shout, “No!”. And, many people would agree with you. But there’s no point debating whether employers should judge candidates by their CGPA or not. Employers will judge you by it, especially when you are a fresh university graduate. Sometimes, having a low CGPA may seem like the end of the world while searching for job, but if you can survive in your first job interview, then you can fill out your resume with more and more experiences and, eventually, your CGPA will soon be forgotten.When CGPA doesn’t matter
It matters less and less as you advance in your career and have more experience under your belt (no one asks a 50-year-old executive what grade s/he got in his/her undergraduate courses). This means that if you want your CGPA to matter less, you need to make your experience matter more. Nevertheless, at the beginning of your career, it matters a lot because your employers use CGPA to gauge a few things about you: your intelligence, discipline, and dedication. Good grades imply that you are serious, focused, and motivated. Mediocre grades imply the opposite. So, if you’re just not a good student or you slacked off in school, you need to show that you possess the attributes of someone with a higher CGPA. But, how? Don’t worry! This article is all about that.
Always remember that if your CGPA is lower than the market standard, you’ve got some strategising to do before you embark on your job or internship. Thus, I have delineated some strategies here that you can use to make sure you shine in the best light possible while job hunting.
Don’t mention it / Highlight your major CGPA
There’s no law that compels you to include your CGPA on your resume or talk about it during interviews. So, if you have a low CGPA, and nobody outright asks you about it, let it go. Talk about your other strengths instead. Even if you don’t bring up the topic of CGPA, always be prepared for it to emerge at some point. If your interviewers ask about your low CGPA, consider mentioning your major CGPA, provided that your major CGPA is higher than your overall CGPA. Now, if your major CGPA isn’t better, or is worse than your overall CGPA, you can calculate your CGPA for a selected time span. For example, last 60 credits. Perhaps, your grades were terrible during your freshman years. However, when you became a senior, you got serious and began performing much better academically.This approach serves a dual purpose: it puts your cumulative GPA in its proper context, and it shows employers you are capable of earning good grades if you’re studying something that engages you.
Work on other aspects of your CVHaving a chock-full and bursting resume will show that you didn’t simply spend all day in your room playing stupid video games instead of going to classes, but you were involved in on-campus activities: whether it’s working on campus or joining clubs you are passionate about. Some employers will be more interested in your work experience rather than your CGPA, and having something to show for that will interest some employers much more than just CGPA. Having extracurricular activities, work experience, and internships can show employers much more about your work ability, experience, and dedication than a CGPA can. So, don’t worry about your CGPA much, rather work on the other aspects of your CV!
Makea lasting first impression
Within seconds of meeting someone for the first time, your appearance, body language, and non-verbal communication will create a lasting first impression. Moreover, the first impression that you create within a few seconds is often used by interviewers as the benchmark on how you will be treated, addressed and valued. And, in this short span of time, the employers form an opinion or ‘brand’ you, depending on how you talk, your body movements, your fluency in English, and how you dress up. It’s the power of the first impression which can make or unmake you. So, learn how to make a great first impression and your employer will not care about your low CGPA.For your information, I also have a low CGPA and, thus, I try to give an outstanding first impression to divert the interviewers’ attention to my quality. You can do the same!
Retake troublesome courses
At most institutions, you have the option of retaking courses that didn’t go well for you the first time. If you do better the second time, only the second grade is used to calculate your CGPA. Obviously, retaking a course impacts your finances, time, and energy. But if it helps you pull up your overall CGPA to a point where employers will give it more respect, then it’s probably worth the investment in the long run. However, make sure that (1) the courses you want to retake are known to be easy (both the course materials and the faculty member who will conduct the course) and (2) you have the time to take them. It’s an easy way to boost your CGPA, and you’re learning more in the meantime.
Create a strong network!
Networking is considered as a vital strength in career development and success. Particularly, if you have a low CGPA, it will be imperative to know people who can direct you to other people they know and can speak to your strengths. Getting good recommendations can also help bolster your chances to secure a job. A professor who has witnessed your best work, a relative who hold a managerial position in a company and knows you well, a university senior who is now a corporate leader, or, even a friend who has got into the corporate arena before you would be ideal persons for you to network because they can speak to your ability to perform and your academic accomplishments. Expanding your network will be important no matter what, but it is especially important when you have a low CGPA. Therefore, don’t underestimate the importance of networking!
Do a-smart-job search
Unfortunately, a low CGPA will probably bar you from being hired by some prestigious companies, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll end up working in small companies for the rest of your life! Being smart and strategic about where to look for jobs will boost your likelihood of being hired. Not all firms will consider your CGPA as an important part of the hiring process.Unilever, British American Tobacco (BAT), or Grameenphone may not hire you at the beginning of your career, but some firms will be more holistic and less competitive in their hiring practices, and doing your research will help you figure out which firms will be more likely to overlook a low CGPA, so that you have a greater chance of being hired. Therefore, finding the right places and making a case for yourself and proving your worth to a company will improve your chances of being considered for a job no matter what your academic standing.
Learn how to talk about your CGPA
Although I suggest you not to mention your CGPA anywhere, you must be well prepared to talk about your low CGPA if asked about it. Try to be honest in your explanation. However, some employers may make a big deal about your low CGPA. Don’t fret—if asked about it, explain what may have happened that impacted your CGPA, but also highlight how you overcame it or got through it (e.g., you were sick, you had family issues, or you might have had a bad freshman year but improved every year after that). But be cautious about how much you want to reveal in explaining your low CGPA if there were personal issues that got in the way of your grades. I hope you understand what I mean!
Market yourself in person
Many employers nowadays—when reading through recent university graduates’ resumes—use the applicants’ CGPA to weed people out. I have seen—even you’ve probably seen—that some recent job or internship listings mention minimum required CGPA of at least 3.5 to apply for the position. If your CGPA doesn’t meet the standards employers are seeking, you will have difficulty making a case for yourself on paper alone. So, it will be wiser for you to find different ways to talk to the employers in person. Try to become a member of any professional organisation in your field and start attending its meetings/conferences in order to meet your potential employers. Do some informational interviewing, so that they can get to know you as a real person, not just a CGPA holder. The more you can sell your whole self in person, the less impact a low CGPA will have on your internship and job prospects. So, try to market yourself in person!
CGPA may be a decisive and influential factor for short-listing candidates from the primary pool of applicants. But if you can prove that you have value and quality in spite of having a low CGPA by including other extraordinary achievements in your resume, you can quite easily bag the job.Undoubtedly, with a low CGPA, it will take more work to get a job, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t get one! You just have to be able to show future employers that your CGPA does not define you, and show off your other qualities and accomplishments instead. Remember, not all employers care about your CGPA, and some will care more about the other aspects of your resume, like your previous work experience. So, be positive and don’t make excuses—make a plan. Best wishes for you!
The writer is a Lecturer in Finance at Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology (BAIUST), Cumilla Cantonment. Email: [email protected]