What to Do When Things Don't Go According to Plan

Did something go horribly wrong over the course of your studies and did your grades take a hit? Here’s some advice on how you can let employers know why you were unable to perform at your best.
The gradsingapore Team

Murphy’s Law states: if anything can go wrong, it will. Of course, life is not always filled with bad luck and suffering, but it can definitely happen during the worst of times, such as during your examinations period. Employers tend to be forgiving of certain mitigating circumstances if they see an unexpected drop in your grades.

Defined as serious, unforeseen reasons or events, mitigating circumstances can keep you from achieving academic results that graduate recruiters expect and need to be taken into account when processing job applications.

Common reasons include bereavement, physical and mental illness, your parents getting divorced, being a dependent’s primary caregiver whilst studying, or suffering a personal financial crisis.

In other words, mitigating circumstances are serious matters, and should not be misused as an excuse for your poor grades.


Disclosing your circumstances

It’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable about disclosing mitigating circumstances, especially if they’re very personal, such as mental health issues or psychological impairment.

As such, disclosure is entirely at your discretion. There may be instances when you may not have a choice though. If you do decide to share, there are several ways to go about it.

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Telling your university

If you’ve made the decision to tell your university, consider approaching your personal tutor or lecturer whom you feel close to about your mitigating circumstances at the time. They can also help ensure that your university takes your situation into account while grading and/or extending deadlines for assignments.

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Informing recruiters

Some organisations welcome applicants with mitigating circumstances, so long as there is an appropriate amount of evidence. Try looking at their graduate recruitment web pages to learn about their policies, or contact them directly to ask if they consider such cases.

If your recruiters know of your mitigating circumstances, they won’t penalise you if you’re upset, uncomfortable, or not as enthusiastic as they expect you to be!

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How to do it

You don’t need to go into too much detail. Instead, you can try to break the news by focusing on how the problems affected your academic performance. Give employers a past frame of reference to help put things in perspective.

After that, turn the talk away from your shortcomings and to your strengths and accomplishments. This isn’t just about painting yourself in a favourable light – you’d be surprised at how much it might encourage you too. After all, the key is to show them that you’re able to rise above the challenges, and you’re not defined by the hardships you’ve faced.

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In the case of a disability

Informing an employer of a disability or existing mental condition can be a difficult decision. A range of factors can influence this decision, including the type of disability, the issue of support and the reactions of both employers and colleagues to your disclosure.

Past negative reactions to your disclosure in the past, or the fear that you will be treated unfairly when searching for employment may be causes for apprehension. But if you do have to disclose it, the best way is to own your disability and show that it doesn’t make you any less capable than others.

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Resilience is attractive

Regardless of the outcome, remember that among graduate recruiters, resilience is a highly sought-after quality! They are still human, after all, and can certainly empathise and applaud your efforts to overcome your obstacles. 

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