So so grades and future employment prospects
April 25, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to finish a master's program and my grades are less than stellar. How big of an effect might this have on my employment prospects going forward, and what are some strategies to deal with this?

I'm a couple months away from finishing a masters in international relations, and my grades are not what I'd hoped they would be coming out of the program. There's a pretty easy explanation for this, but it's not one that I can tell any prospective employer. Specifically, after my first term, my girlfriend of a couple years left me and I didn't handle it well. I went into a deep depression and for several months had trouble even getting out of bed, much less performing well in a rigorous masters program. For the next couple terms my grades suffered.

The good news is that this got me to see a counselor for the first time in my life, and I was able to eventually treat my depression and work on some other issues I didn't even realize I'd been dealing with for a long time.

The bad news is that when I graduate, my GPA will be about 3.3. Prior to the breakup and after I'd finished counseling, it's about a 3.6, but in between it's a fair bit lower.

Obviously, this is not something I can tell a prospective employer.

Given all of this, I'd like to know:

1. What industries are most likely to look at my grades when I apply? When I started this program I'd thought I would apply to some of the big strategy consulting firms when I'd finished, but I think this is probably off the table now. IR degrees are generalist degrees so there are probably still a lot of different directions I can pursue, but other than business strategy I'm most interested in economic policy analysis and emerging markets risk assessment. Any idea how closely companies/agencies in these industries focus on grades? I feel like a lot of industries look for someone with at least a 3.5 GPA, but I'm not sure if this actually true or not.

2. For industries that do place a premium on grades, are there any strategies to compensate for having average ones? If I get asked in an interview why my grades aren't very good, what are some good ways to answer this question? I have done some interesting research and produced some good papers, and I feel like I'm best off focusing on that if possible, as I don't have a ton of good work experience prior to entering this program.

I realize these might not be easy questions to answer, but if you have any suggestions about any of what I've asked here I would greatly appreciate it.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)

3.3 less than stellar??? That's pretty freaking great! Good on ya!

Nearly nobody will ask you for your G.P.A. and if they do 3.3 is completely respectible.

Sure, Google is the obvious asshole in the pile, but that only leaves everyone else who ever was anywhere.

Apply to who you wanted to apply to, answer the GPA question honestly. I doubt anyone will ever ask you about it, or think anything of it to be quite possible.

The US Government is a good place to start (If you're in the US) or a consulting firm.

If anyone asks why you didn't get better grades, simply say, "I had a family crisis in my first year, but I worked hard subsequently and was able to graduate with a 3.3"

Sweetie, you are not your grade. And your grade isn't bad, it's very good.

Enjoy the rest of your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:46 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

If I get asked in an interview why my grades aren't very good, what are some good ways to answer this question?

If you're asked -- and only if you're asked; never volunteer details -- you tell them the truth: you had a temporary medical problem, which was treated and will not recur. No one worth working for will ever follow up with "what was the nature of your medical problem?" because that opens them up to all sorts of liabilities.
posted by griphus at 12:48 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nobody will ask you for your GPA. But for those wondering, when it comes to a Master's degree, it is true that at anyplace other than the most rigorous of graduate schools, you should pretty much be able to get an "A" in most classes.

Seriously, though, only a couple highly competitive employers have ever asked me for my GPA. I wouldn't worry too much about this.

Incidentally, it is the end of April... why haven't you be schmoozing with employers at career fairs and getting some first-hand knowledge of how much they care about GPAs?
posted by deanc at 12:57 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got my MBA with a 3.3 GPA. It didn't hurt my career.
posted by COD at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2013

Yeah, your grades are fine. Stop worrying about it.

For career advice, look to the USG, and to smaller consulting firms. If you're in IR and you work in the DC area, look at Booz, Deloitte, etc. They need to fill seats, and you'll do really interesting work. (This was my line of work for a long time, although not for either of those two companies.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2013

Pretty much the only future endeavour in which your grades will matter will be further graduate education.
posted by scribbler at 6:47 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

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