(MoneyWatch) If your family budget or high school grades didn't allow you to attend a first-rate college, you might be experiencing negative repercussions during your job search or interviews. Certainly, going to a top-tier college can open doors, but not attending one doesn't close them and can even work in your favor, experts say.
Great grades trump school rep. If you were a top student in a smaller or less acclaimed pond, you have
little to worry about. "It's better to hire a graduate from a B-level
college who had an exceptional academic record, as compared to hiring a
graduate from an A-level college who had a mediocre or poor academic
record," said Ford Myers, author of "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring." "Students -- even
very bright and capable students -- often simply don't have the
opportunity to attend top colleges." Employers realize that,
and many won't hold it against you.
Highlight your activities and internships. What are the other things you have done as far as activities or other jobs or internships that can stand out on a resume or social media profile? "The best signals of achievement can be quantified accomplishments -- numbers are a language that all high-performing companies understand," said Tracy Brisson, founder of The Opportunities Project, a career consulting firm for younger employees. "Perhaps you worked with a student group with a large number of student members or increased efficiencies at your first job."
Network like it's your job. If you went to a prestigious college, you can rely on the brand for introductions as well as connections. If you didn't, you'll need to make those for yourself. "More than most people, you need to leverage your network and get what I call a 'warm introduction' from someone you know internally at an employer," said Selena Rezvani, author of "Pushback: How Smart Women Ask -- and Stand Up For -- What They Want."
Have a succinct explanation. If you get in the door, you want to be able to talk about your college choice if they ask or seem concerned. "Have a go-to, 40-second story that explains succinctly why it made sense for you," said Rezvani. " Be certain that your explanation highlights the positives, including how you show initiative and maximize opportunities. For example, 'While XYZ University was the best school my family and I could afford, I took full advantage of my learning there by getting a work study role in the admissions office, interning with the mayor's office my junior and senior years, and starting a business club on campus for economics majors.'"