Graduating with a 2:2 can be a bit of a kick in the teeth, especially if those around you are celebrating their results. It’s easy to slip into disappointment, frustration, and anxiety that your dream career will be forever out of reach.
True, many employers specify a 2:1 minimum grade requirement. And yes, the job market is fiercely competitive. But no, you’re not doomed to a life of hellish 9-5 hours in an industry you hate. Realistically, your grades are just one of the many factors that employers take into account when considering your application, and thousands of graduates go far with a 2:2 or less. Here’s what you should do if you graduated with less than what you hoped for:
Be prepared to explain yourself
Prospective employers who are happy to overlook your grades and call you to interview may still ask what you think went wrong. They’re not looking for you to justify yourself, only to make sure that you’ve learnt from your mistakes and that your future work will be of a high standard. If there were mitigating circumstances, tell them (without going into unnecessary detail), and explain what’s been put in place to make sure you can handle those circumstances better should they arise again. If you simply spent too little time studying, that’s fine. You can explain that you’ve since learnt how to manage your time effectively and that you won’t get the results you’re after without hard work. This is a great way to show you’ve grown since graduation and spin a negative into a positive.
Get yourself some work-experience
Everyone knows that in the world of work, experience is what really matters. Even experience in an industry you’re not passionate about can be helpful, as you’re likely to face all the usual challenges that future employers will want to see you’re able to overcome. Hospitality, leisure, and travel businesses do not generally filter applicants based on degree classification, and so they can be a great place to get a foot on the ladder. Small businesses and start-ups are also likely to be more flexible about your academic results. In addition, it might be worth applying for low or unpaid internships, as these can be easier to secure than fully paid work, for obvious reasons.
If you got a 2:2, chances are you were spending too much time on your extra-curricular activities. Even if this isn’t the case, it’s never too late to start! Participating in extra-curricular activities, whether sport, drama, journalism, charity work, whatever, is a great source of valuable experience. Talking about the plays you were in or the competitions you entered, and what you learnt along the way, is a fantastic way to impress.
Keep an eye out for graduate schemes
Not all graduate schemes at large companies require a 2:1. As of 2015, the Big Four accounting firms, for instance, have been phasing out their 2:1 screening procedure. More and more employers are recognising that academic results are not necessarily a reliable indicator of how well a candidate will perform on the job, so keep your eyes open!
It’s not what you know, but who you know. Even with lower than average grades, you can go far if you know the right people. Ask around. See if you can join a family member’s or friend’s business, or if anyone knows anyone who might be able to land you an interview. Doing work which gets you interacting with lots of different people, like tutoring or volunteering at big events, can also be a great way to extend your network and improve your chances.
If you work for yourself, there’s no way your grades will hold you back. Think carefully about whether you have a viable business idea. Do you have a unique product or service that you can provide? In the digital age, it’s easier to strike out on your own than you would suspect, though it’s important to appreciate that there’s always a risk things won’t work out.
Finally, it’s important not to worry too much or let your grades affect your self-esteem. Lots of people recognise that academic exams are not a reliable test of intelligence, and the vast majority of people will never ask what your grades were. And if you got a 2:2 or less, it’s worth knowing that you’re in good company.