When you have a low GPA, everything job-hunting related seems hard. You have to take alternate routes to everything that would be so simple if you were just in good standing. It’s the result of not being everything you could have been if you applied yourself (properly) in school. It’s just the even exchange for not putting the work in up front, i.e. “whatever it takes.” Stuck in this predicament, you’ve got to get pretty creative with how you market yourself, and in general, that means doing a lot of extra work.
The goal here is to smother your GPA with excellence. To the point that it’s completely overshadowed. Recruiters would have to be fools to stop because of your GPA. Add enough outstanding material to your profile and your GPA will look more a fluke than anything else. Brilliance often times has blemishes. A few good tips and strategies are below.
How to Improve Your Credentials
Of the five below, three worked for me. Bear in mind, none of the options below are quick and easy. Some definitey require more work than others, but it will depend on your situation and how much time you’re willing to put in. It tends to pay greater the more effort you have to put in–but you knew that. Read and attack whichever you think is best:
1. Coursera Classes
The greatest kept secret for the GPA Underdogs of our time is Coursera.org. If you want to put big, elite names on your resume, for free (or for cheap), then Coursera is the way to go.
They’re an online educational platform aiming to bring education and knowledge to the masses. Many top-tier universities subscribe to their service and offer online classes for free to those who sign up. They cover material spanning from Engineering to Philosophy. It’s truly a quality education.
Because they’re well endorsed by big name universities, their courses have plenty of respect. You don’t have to worry about putting in tons of time and effort into a course, only to have it hold no weight. Paying approximately $50 (chump change in the light of holding the job you want) will give you get the opportunity to earn a Certified Course Certificate. It proves you completed the course and did so in good faith. The certificate is downloadable and shareable through they’re website so you can plaster it all over your LinkedIn and resume. While this sounds too good to be true, the courses can be pretty tough, so don’t expect a cakewalk.
This is the closest thing you’ll get to taking a second shot at college. I took advantage of several courses and put them atop my resume under education. Trust me that recruiters took notice and were pleasantly surprised to see additional education as a part of my profile. You’ll be glad you did it.
2. Industry Relevant Reading
Read, read, and read some more. It should be on everyone’s tenet sheet. You can learn immensely from reading, and you can talk about them–at length–to recruiters. Find the industry leading texts in your industry and pick it up whenever you can.
When I was trying to hop industries, I had nothing to really tie me to the field I was trying to go. Other than my bachelor’s degree, very little on my resume spoke to my ability to perform functions associated with the job. It was very daunting to try and make up for a deficit I knew a lot of other people had. My saving grace was a book that nearly everyone in the industry’s heard of (but likely not read). I mentioned it during my interviews and it always grabbed their attention.
When the time is right, mention what you’ve been reading and allow that to speak for you. Interviewers respond with respect and gratitude for showing a concerted effort. It proves you’re interested and demonstrates you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your professional cred.
Jumping into a volunteer or service opportunity is the no-brainer you likely heard from your mother, but she’s right (like always). It’s an extremely effective way to bolster your resume with industry relevant work. Looking to work in the medical field? Volunteer at a hospital. Looking to get into business? Handle someone’s taxes in a tax-assist program.
Find yourself a reputable program, or better yet, one that really means something to you and sign up. Not all opportunities are created equal, so you’ll have to do your research and ensure you’re getting quality experience–something that you can talk at length about.
Now I know many of you will rebuttal with, “I can’t afford to work for free, I can’t put enough time in to make it worthwhile, etc.” While much of this may be true, there is a threshold where you just have to decide to bite the bullet. If your circumstances are dire, you’ll do what you must.
4. Side Project
Starting a project from scratch is your most time intensive option. It will require a large investment of time and energy, however, it will also have the largest payoff.
For example: You intend to get into the car industry, but have little working knowledge. Lead the charge on a community project car. Buy a scrap car for $400 and get to work. Recruiting whoever you can. Record the process, and feel the joy of being able to talk about it during each and every interview. You’ll be able to talk about something like that for years.
Another example: You intend to work in business. Start a small business. One that will show you the ropes and expose you to the hurdles of every business owner. You’ll undoubtedly learn things you’d have never known otherwise, and you’ll have the satisfaction of saying you’ve built a business. Make T-Shirts, be a Bookkeeper (i.e. handle a business’s books–think cash-driven businesses like gas-stations), or free-lance a set of your skills. Whatever you do, you’ll grow immensely.
5. Six Sigma
Oh, the infamous Six Sigma training courses. I’ve put this item last because I don’t intend for it to be used as serious resume boosting material. It can be used effectively however, as fluff. Six Sigma is one of those catch phrases that everyone recognizes, but knows nothing about. Unless you’re trained to legitimately use it in work, knowing Six Sigma isn’t necessary. Recruiters, however, like to hear you know something about it. Typically, black belts are hired to handle Six Sigma projects in the workplace.
I spent a few short weeks taking an online Six Sigma class and learned a lot. Though it wasn’t relevant to my work at the time it provided me a way of thinking that translated into my personal life. So it’s time well spent however you look at it. A little extra knowledge can go a long way. Categorize it as a ‘good-to-know.’
If you’re only a year or two into your professional career after college, take a simple intro Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) course, and get it on your resume. I used Vision System’s On-Demand Six Sigma course to get my training. At the time, it was offered on Amazon Local for $69. But given a little online research you’ll find something comparable for a similar price. Get it done and earn a certificate. Just keep in mind that getting full certification is arduous, but getting “trained” only takes a few classes, and that’s enough to get it on your resume.
The Six Sigma brand is respected widely in the professional world, and applicable in almost any industry. While you won’t be hired as a Six Sigma expert, any and everyone will find it valuable that you know something about it.
If you’re still in school, do yourself the favor and get yourself on track to avoid this situation altogether. You’ll get the job you want by simply graduating. So study hard, and get good grades. No you won’t remember any of it. But your transcript will remember for you. So make this opportunity count.
For those of you that have already graduated, please don’t look at graduate school as a quick route for overcoming this career struggle. Yes, it IS an avenue to hit the GPA (or life) reset button, but is it really the right choice? Do you really know what you want to do? Taking on more student debt to appease a self inflicted wound seems nonsensical. You’ve shot one foot, don’t shoot the other. Correcting your GPA and getting to where you want to be can be done without graduate school. It’s only that if where you want to be requires graduate school, that does attending graduate school make sense. But even if the latter is the case, spend some time “in the real world” and build some resume boosting accomplishments and stories for yourself that will make getting into graduate school that much easier.
Regardless of you decisions, I hope that these ideas helped you. while it’s difficult to improve your credentials after college it’s not impossible. Spend a few month’s accruing some resume boosters and you’ll be all set to attack recruiters at full force. If you’ve used any others that weren’t on this list I’d love to hear about it. These worked for me, but I’m only a drop in the bucket. Share and help the community!