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Overcoming your grade stereotype

Get a first and you've got no life, get a 2:2 and you're a slacker. No matter what degree grade you get, people will make assumptions. But you can get a job, whether you got the perfect 2:1 or the dreaded third class degree.

Students laughing at a computer screen

Does laughing in the library affect your grade?

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No matter what grade you end up getting, there will be a stereotype associated with it. Here’s how to make sure you can overcome your degree persona – both on your CV and face-to-face.

I got a first

The sterotype: Boring, brainy Billy/Belinda-no-mates

The reality: You worked your socks off and got the grade you deserved, but you’ve also got a natural aptitude for exams and a flair for essays.

Get past it: While some employers will only take graduates on if they’ve got a glowing first on their CV, others might write you off in a ‘we need someone with a personality’ kind of way. Make sure you get to the interview stage so you can prove them wrong by getting your CV and application right.

Write a personal letter, explaining exactly why you want the role. Don’t just talk about your studies; pull out personal examples to sell yourself. For example, a great party you organised. Do the same on your CV, mentioning your interests, places you’ve travelled to and how you like to socialise.

Don’t be afraid to kick back for a while either. A first can bring with it a lot of pressure to be super-successful in everything you do. But after all that hard work, you might find that a stint of travelling, volunteering or just taking your time before embarking on a high-flying career path could be the best next step.

“My friend had a part-time job, did his dissertation while shooting his final year film with a cast of 20, was president of the breakdancing society, had the best social life of anyone I know and had all the usual essays to write. He got a first… and now he’s happily working in a surf shop,” laughs Stuart.

I got a 2:1

The stereotype: Perfect Paul/Paula

The reality: You worked hard when you needed to, but despite good marks, couldn’t quite pull off a first. You always did enough revision to feel prepared in exams, but usually came out thinking you could have done better. Still, you can always drown your sorrows in the uni bar for a while…

Get past it: It might seem like the perfect place between being too slack and too geeky, but a 2:1 isn’t an automatic ticket to a fantastic graduate job, as Kathryn found out. “I got a very good 2:1 and spent nine months finding my first job in the field I want to work in,” she says. Meanwhile, her best friends got 2:2s: one went straight into a well-paid job; the other was earning less but got a job she loved immediately, gaining great experience.

“The fact they knew what they wanted to do and were confident moved mountains for them. I left uni totally clueless with no direction and little confidence because I had no work experience except for part-time shop work. I believe that, not my degree mark, made all the difference.”

When you get through the interview doors, you still need to prove you’re the best for the job, 2:1 or not. So, do your homework on the company and be prepared to talk about why this is the job for you.

I got a 2:2

The stereotype: Average Annie/Andrew

The reality: You probably could have got a 2:1 if you’d worked harder – but you didn’t. You still put lots of effort in, and turned up to (most) lectures. But hey, you had a bloody good time making sure that your uni years really were the best of your life.

Get past it: Show prospective employers how serious you were about your studies by demonstrating drive and ambition. Specific examples of work that inspires you will bring your time at university to life and show that you did so much more than prop-up the student union bar.

“I managed to get a fabulous graduate job within a month of getting my 2:2,” says Melinda. “I found that a lot more emphasis is placed on experience than grades, as that’s what sets you apart from other graduates.”

I got a third

The stereotype: Part-time Pete/Petra

The reality: You might have struggled a bit with your coursework and dreaded exams, no matter how hard you had studied in advance. Maybe you picked the wrong course, but realised a bit too late to change to one you’d have done better in.

Get past it: You can turn a third into something positive. Know why you didn’t get a better grade and work out how to communicate this positively without sounding like you’re making excuses. Make sure you can talk about all the new experiences and skills you did learn during your time at uni. Even if it’s a part-time job behind the uni bar, you can talk about handling money, dealing with difficult customers, organising special nights and working as a team. If you got involved in a club, society or some kind of volunteering work, then even better.

Next Steps

  • Download Motimator – an app that helps you get the career you want – by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Written by Hannah Jolliffe

Updated on 25-Sep-2012

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