What to do if you get a third-class degree

Lara Billington
Content Marketing Executive

After three years of graft, ending university with a third-class degree can feel like a kick in the teeth. 

It might seem like the end of the world at the moment, and as though you'll never be able to land a graduate job with a 3rd, but try not to panic. 

By no means does your degree grade mean you won't be able to find a job and have a successful career. Rather, you'll just have to go balls to the wall in showing employers that you're worth much more than just your academic credentials. Here's how: 

1. Create a CV employers won't be able to say no to 

Graduates who have stellar academic credentials often rely on them to be the star of the show on their CV, and forget about the importance of experience, skills and personality. This is your opportunity to do the opposite - show employers that grades don't mean everything and stand out from the sea of 2:1 graduates.

The first step to this is to actually get some experience under your belt. This could be volunteer work, internships, online courses that build your skill-set - anything that shows you're interested in the industry and demonstrates evidence of your personal development. Once you have the experience, focus on emphasising what you achieved from each of them, rather than just listing your responsibilities. Statistics, data and real evidence of your accomplishments clearly demonstrate your success, and make it clear to potential employers that you're not just all talk. 

Use your CV as an opportunity to show industry insight and knowledge of the company you're applying to too. Dig a little deeper than what you can find from a quick Google search or stalk of their LinkedIn page, because that's what most candidates will do. Can you subscribe to industry magazines or join LinkedIn groups that offer insights? Do you know someone who works for the company that can offer some inside info? Has the company featured in the press recently, and why? Any nuggets of insight you can gain that others can't, will get you noticed. 

Conveying your personality on an A4 piece of paper can be difficult, but try to make your CV as 'you' as possible. Everyone is organised, ambitious and a good team player - before putting pen to paper, spend time really thinking about what unique qualities you possess and where you've demonstrated these. Focus on real experiences rather than empty business jargon and always write in first person. Consider including a hobbies and interests section too - they're a great opportunity to show more personality, and if nothing else, may help you be more easily remembered (e.g. 'oh yes, he's the one who plays competitive chess isn't he?').


2. Network until there's no one left to network with 

Networking is a really useful tool for securing a graduate job regardless of your grade, but if you've got a third class degree, putting the graft in and getting your name out there is even more important. Utilise LinkedIn for connecting with fellow alumni who work at companies you're interested in and attend networking events fully prepared with an elevator pitch and ready to impress. 

Be proactive too - if you're not hearing back from employers about your applications or you're finding that lots of job specifications ask for a higher degree grade, don't just sit back and accept it. Contact hiring managers at companies you want to work for directly, show your enthusiasm and be frank about really wanting a role (or even just work experience or an internship) at their company. What's the worst thing they could say? 


3. Be realistic about your expectations, and flexible with jobs 

It's true that a lot of graduate schemes require at least a 2.2 or 2.1 degree or above to apply, but not all companies place so much weight on your grade. Smaller companies often consider the whole package and won't write you off for having a 3rd so long as you demonstrate your willingness to hit the ground running when you join their company. 

If you had your sights set on a career that requires high academic credentials, be flexible about the opportunities available to you. You might have to accept an entry-level position to begin with and work your way up the company. Getting your foot in the door is often the hardest part, but once you do, use the opportunity to show the company your true worth, and that you're a valuable asset to their team. Once you've done that, your third class degree will be a distant memory. 


4. And remember, your degree grade won't define your future

The more professional experience you gain and the further you progress with your career, the less your degree grade will matter. Think back to your GCSEs - they might have seemed super important at the time and now they barely make an appearance on your CV - the same will apply to your degree as you build work experience and a more refined skill-set. Most employers just want to see that you have a degree at all, so don't let your grade hold you back or define the decisions you make in your career. There's plenty of time to show what you're really worth. 



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