How Important Is GPA When Looking for a Job or Internship?

Let’s face it…. a strong GPA has never been detrimental when applying for jobs and internships. It can demonstrate that an applicant is intelligent, has a good work ethic, and takes his/her role as a student seriously. That said, I very often hear from students who think an extraordinarily high GPA is required to land an attractive job or internship. These comments don’t resonate with what I know to be true about Penn student outcomes… that most of them land great jobs with interesting employers, whether they have a 3.0 GPA or a 3.9 GPA. For that reason we recently embarked on a study to look more closely at the GPA ranges of Penn students entering various industries. We merged information from the Career Plans Survey for the Class of 2017 with GPA data at graduation. While we don’t have a 100% response rate to the survey, we did have information on a respectable 86% of the Penn undergraduate class, so know the results are grounded in solid data. What we found might surprise you.

The chart below shows the middle 50% of Penn GPAs for various industries. We have included below some of the more common industries that Penn students enter after graduation because we had enough data points to make the calculations meaningful. Penn students obviously enter many other industries, but we did not report on them because smaller numbers could skew the results more radically. (Note that MBB stands for the big 3 consulting firms – McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain; Bulge Bracket are the large investment banks, excluding boutique banks; and the Frightful Five Tech is Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google.) The data clearly demonstrates that a 3.8 is indeed NOT required for any of these industries.

Middle 50% of GPAs for Penn Students Entering Various Career Fields

Employers consider a broad range of variables when deciding which students to interview. Yes, GPA is often one of those variables, but just as important are the skills students display on their resumes developed through coursework, internships, extracurricular activities, etc.

The non-tangibles are also essential. Has the student demonstrated an interest in the industry, job function and specific organization? Does the applicant demonstrate strong communication skills through the cover letter and on the resume? Has the applicant taken the time to network and get to know people at the organization? While it may not always seem fair, who you know (and more importantly – who knows you!) can make a big difference when employers decide which candidates they are going to call for an interview.

So, while an extremely high GPA is not a prerequisite for landing any of these jobs, a low GPA can present challenges when seeking jobs or internships. Here are a few things that Career Services advisors suggest to mitigate a lower GPA:

Consider why your GPA is lower. Some students may have a particular semester that is an anomaly because of an illness, difficult family situation, or simply being over-committed. Is there a way to explain this to a recruiter? For example, something like the following might work:

You may notice that I did not perform as well academically during the spring of my sophomore year. I wanted to let you know that I had mono that semester and was unfortunately not able to devote as much time to studying. I am happy to say that once I recuperated my grades rebounded, and for my most recent semester I achieved a 3.5 GPA which I consider to be more reflective of my abilities.

Did you do better in your major /concentration classes? Highlight that fact on your resume. Per Penn policies, be sure to include the number of courses included in the calculation. For example: Major GPA: 3.4 / 4.0 (7 courses).

Network, network, network. Once people get to know you (and your charming and engaging personality!), they are more likely to go out of their way to help you and more likely to overlook what might be considered a lower GPA. Make it a point to talk to people at the organizations of interest to you. Attend information sessions on campus, go to career fairs, or simply network by using the alumni tool on LinkedIn or the QuakerNet directory. While networking won’t guarantee you an interview, it can certainly go a long way towards making one happen.

Highlight Other Assets on Your Resume and Cover Letter: Every candidate should highlight their strengths on job applications. For some, that might be GPA. For others, it could be technical skills, great leadership abilities, or an amazing work ethic (demonstrated by working 20 hours a week and being highly involved in a campus club). Be aware of your personal strengths and highlight them on your resume.

Be prepared to talk about your GPA. While you don’t need to volunteer your GPA if not asked in an interview (and we recommend leaving it off your resume if it is below 3.0), you should be prepared to talk about it if asked. Take responsibility for it, don’t be overly defensive and don’t blame other people. Instead, think about aspects of your GPA that you might be able to talk about positively. For example:

When I came to college I did not have strong study skills and my grades suffered because of it. During sophomore year I discovered the college learning center and developed new ways to study more effectively. I’m happy to say that my GPA has risen every semester since.

Be flexible about the places you apply. Well known employers receive many thousands of applications from college graduates each year and can be very selective about who they interview and hire. (An article on reported that Goldman Sachs received over 250,000 applications from students in 2016.) There are thousands of other organizations out there that could be great places to work, but which are less well-known. Chances are that your resume will stand out more at a less well-known organization.

Talk with a Career Services Advisor. Career Services staff are here to help you with every aspect of your job or internship search and every situation is unique. If you have concerns about how your GPA may impact your job or internship search, please schedule an appointment to talk about your personal situation. You can schedule an appointment through Handshake (under the “Career Center” tab at the top) or by calling the Career Services office.

CS Radio – Episode 55: “Job Trekking”

It’s career fair season again. It’s possible that you find keeping up with all the employers you have or want to connect with daunting. It can be easy to be overwhelmed or feel disorganized before, during or after a career fair. Michael and Mylène discuss some of the techniques they like to use to stay on top of things, including the online platforms JobTreks and CareerFair+. Plus…are business cards still a thing? Are career fairs even still a thing? All that and much more on this week’s episode! Enjoy!

Show Note
Upcoming Career Fairs
JobTreks on our Digital Career Resources page
Career Fair Plus (iOS)
Career Fair Plus (Android)

The “Be – Attitudes” of Professionalism

By Dr. Esther Ra, Career Advisor in Nursing, Education, & Social Policy & Practice

It is a new year and many of our Penn students have come back with gusto to begin the semester and that spring job search! If that predicament describes you, I want to draw
your attention to the Penn 7 Career Competencies. Are you familiar with them? Have you put
some thought into how you are growing in these elements at Penn and beyond?

Among the Penn 7, I often address competencies related to Professionalism and Work Ethic
with students in my office. Whether an undergraduate or graduate student, the “professional”
piece of this competency can be a quagmire and where I usually field an array questions.

Please note that these “be-attitudes” are principles that should not be limited to a job search,
but implemented and displayed all throughout your career and frankly, in all other areas of life!

1. Be Punctual. Be on time. I can take this a step further and say, be a little early. If you are meeting an employer for an interview, be five minutes early. Respecting another person’s time shows care that you are aware and mindful of others. This also applies to phone meetings and Skype meetings. If tardiness cannot be helped (i.e. unforeseen circumstances), call in advance and give notice for your lateness.

2. Be Prepared. Before meeting with potential employers, do your research. It is your due diligence. I have had students skip this step and unfortunately, it has backfired terribly. This is a big mistake, resulting in wasted efforts and time on both the part of you and the employer. For example, if you gather information on the employer and their mission, it will give you a sense of their raison d’etre. If the principles of the company does not agree with your own, eliminate it from your potential job search list. Furthermore, come ready to ask good questions about the employer’s current work and organization. Employers like smart questions and will remember if you appeared ready to engage. Be current on the employers’ research endeavors and news. Did you check their Twitter account to see what has been trending? Have they been noted in the news lately for new research? Be sure to check all media outlets, including social media, to get the scoop on the employer. This is a crucial element in displaying professionalism on the job market.

3. Be Respectful. When interacting with potential employers or even professional contacts for networking, be sure to speak to them with respect. This sounds like a given, but it is a great reminder to not let your guard down. For example, DO send thank you emails after meeting with employers. Thank them for their time and energy spent on talking with you. DO refer to them by their title, unless they otherwise say so (ex. Professor, Doctor, etc.). DO NOT bombard employers or professional contacts with the same request by way of email and phone in the same day. Give employers and professional contacts the space to respond, even if it is not within 24 hours. Chances are, they are quite busy individuals. Many are willing to respond, but also have other hats they are wearing in their work and family lives. Be respectful of this and DO NOT demand or overstep boundaries.

4. Be ethical. Employers are always searching to find reliable employees with integrity. Many of the behavioral questions asked during the interview process try to gauge this competency. How did you handle difficult situations? Are you trustworthy? Did you CHOOSE to make the right decision in your previous workplace? Are you wise and fair with your time? Do you own your mistakes? Do you keep work information confidential? Do your part to be an employee who is known for their integrity. Be fair to others, to yourself, and to your employer. It will not go unnoticed.

5. Be you. Above all, BE YOU. Be the best version of you. Penn students are without a doubt exceptionally hard working, innovative, and unique. The professors and administrators here all desire for your continued success. Use the resources around you and push yourself to be the best YOU, you can be. If you need anything, we are here to help you.

Ways to Practice Professionalism at Penn:

1. Be on time for class and appointments. No explanation needed.

2. Be courteous. Address people appropriately. When addressing professors and administrators appropriately in emails and in person, address them as Professor X or Dr. Z, unless they indicate otherwise. DO NOT assume their title or that they want to be called by their first name.

3. Be there or be square. When you say you will be present at an event, be there. If you will not be able to make it, give notice of your cancellation. DO NOT be a “no show” and brush it off as no big deal. People remember “no shows” and it does not reflect well. If you have to be absent from class, for example, own your absence, and send your professor a note of apology with the valid reason why you have to miss class. Do the same with appointments across campus, whether it be at CAPS, Career Services, or at Health Services. Your cancellation could be an opportunity for another student who may need that appointment.

4. Be respectful to all, even to those you do not necessarily gravitate towards. This should go without explanation, however, sometimes we all need reminding; in your working life there will be varying viewpoints on topics (including politics), differing philosophies in carrying out projects, and general opinions you do not care for or want to discuss. While such circumstances require careful navigation, you should never “fall out” of respect. Be calm when addressing differences; DO NOT take matters personally, and smile.

5. Be thankful. Say thank you. This is a gesture, which is often forgotten, but so very simple. After meeting with a professor, email them to say thank you. After meeting with classmates for a group project, email to say thank you for the efforts to all that contributed. A simple thank you goes a very long way. Though we may be in the digital era with email thank yous, I can assure you that simple, handwritten thank you notes are not obsolete. Thanking someone shows respect and appreciation for an action taken or time spent. Everyone likes to be recognized. Saying thank you shows endless class and never goes out of style.

There you have the “be-attitudes.” Now, go and practice them!

From Penn to DaVita

by Olivia Blaber, COL ’17

At Penn, many students are compelled to have a plan towards career success mapped out freshmen year. Deviating from your path can be a frightening move. However, taking a risk and allowing yourself the opportunity to grow and explore can be just as rewarding as it may seem daunting.

I came into Penn positive I wanted to be a doctor and had mapped out how I would get there. However, my junior year I took a healthcare management class that opened my eyes to the array of opportunities to affect change in healthcare. I wanted to explore those opportunities outside of a clinical roles. Still, I was wary that it would not be the best way to position myself for medical school, and I was even more concerned that it would lead me to change my path entirely.

I scoured PennLink (the job board prior to Handshake) for a healthcare related business opportunity and landed on the analyst position with the Redwoods Leadership Development Program at DaVita. This fortuitous find could not have been more impactful. To me, three things ultimately differentiated this experience. The first was that DaVita, as an enterprise, shared my passion for improving patient care. Second, the Redwoods Program afforded us immense exposure to senior leadership and high impact projects. Finally, the support network and emphasis on personal growth and development far exceeded my expectations.

I was weary that at a large, for-profit company the experience of individual patients would become obsolete. However, part of DaVita’s mission is to be the Provider of Choice and its first core value is Service Excellence. What I learned was that these words are more than just a tag line, but a compass driving the direction of business decision. I was surprised to learn that the CEO, Kent Thiry, begins every earnings call with clinical outcomes and by the amount of times I was in strategy meetings where patient impact was the first consideration.

Further, the exposure my intern cohort had to senior leadership from every arm of the enterprise was incredible. The open dialogue channels with leaders who shared lessons learned from their careers was invaluable as I grappled with how to navigate the beginning of my own career journey. Even more exciting for me, was the opportunity to work closely with members of the leadership team. As an intern on the corporate strategy team I worked on a project to develop a five year growth strategy for one of DaVita’s smaller strategic business unit. The learning curve was steep at first but resulted in the confidence to actively contribute in working sessions with the business unit’s CEO.
Finally, the support network developed by the Redwoods team was a resource I had not expected to receive in the corporate world. The summer started with a comprehensive training period that ranged in topics from a business overview to honing hard skills in excel. Support did not cease when training did, but rather the Redwoods team was constantly setting up career development sessions and checking in to make sure our development goals were being met. Outside of the formal Redwoods team, everyone I encountered at DaVita was excited to offer up their career learnings and help me think through my options.

At the end of the experience, I had accomplished my goal of branching out from my initial career path. But I had also learned that I had an appetite for the challenge that strategy work presents and an excitement about systematically transforming healthcare. I was not content to let the learning end there and reflecting upon the differentiating qualities of the Redwoods program, I decided to come back full-time. In my role today, I am constantly challenged to push the bounds of my comfort zone and continue to be rewarded with increased aptitude and confidence.

CS Radio – Episode 54: “Indispensable”

Happy 2018! We’re back with all new episodes for the new semester and the new year! Michael and Mylène did some reading over the holiday break and share two great career related articles this week about making yourself indispensable at work. It is a great way to follow-up on those new year’s resolutions. We also take a look about this week’s Creative + Common Good Careers Fair and its related events such as Q&A about careers in theatrical licensing. Enjoy! Show Notes – Article 1: Making Yourself Indispensable at Work (via The Muse) – Article 2: How To Improve Your Productivity at Work (via NY Times) – Event: Creative + Common Good Careers Fair – Event: Everything You Wanted To Know About Theatrical Licensing…But Were Afraid to Ask! With Samuel French, Inc.