Have you ever gone somewhere to apply for a job, met another applicant with a really great resume and immediately felt defeated?
I have, that’s for sure. A resume can be so intimidating–it’s a 2-3 page document that a potential employer uses to decide whether or not the company will give you an interview–that’s a big deal for such a small thing!
It can be hard, too, when you feel like you don’t really have a great resume. This is a problem that I know a lot of my friends have faced as they’ve entered the business world after graduating from the academic one. And hey, graduating and finding a job is scary enough as it is–so I thought I’d give you a few pointers on how to build yourself a great resume while in college so you don’t have to worry later!
I’m pretty lucky–my grandmother does career coaching for a living, so I’ve always grown up with career talk going on around me, such as what to do in an interview, how to write a professional e-mail, or how to apply for a job. With that has come a few resume tips that I’ve learned over my 21 years of being in the family that I have, so I hope you find these helpful!
Ok, this one you may have seen coming. The great thing about volunteering for college students is that it requires very few hours a week and there are tons of opportunities available. But you have to do this strategically. Just volunteering as a nursery worker might not help you much if you’re going for an accounting position. Look for volunteer positions that have the following traits:
- they give you a chance to show initiative
- they are related to your career goals
- they allow you to build a diverse network
Let me break each of these down for you.
Gives you a chance to show initiative.
Employers want to know that you’re not just going to sit around if you finish what you were working on. Employers want to hire people they know will get up and get stuff done, even when the boss isn’t around! Finding volunteer opportunities where you were able to run a fundraiser, organize a new way of managing their databases to increase efficiency, or think of new activities for a kids’ camp will boost your resume more than volunteer jobs where you just did what you were told the whole time.
They are related to your career goals.
But it doesn’t need to be directly related. If you want to be an accountant, you don’t need to volunteer at an accounting company. All you need to do is find a way to use your volunteer position to show you have a skill that is applicable to your future career goals. For example, if you volunteered at a call centre you could then say to that accounting company that volunteering at the call centre showed that you have an understanding of the important of confidentiality and following protocol. Both of which are important in accounting, even though working at a call centre at face value seems completely unrelated.
They allow you to build a diverse network.
My nana sent me a great article the other day about the importance of building a diverse network and I cannot stress how important this is. Look for volunteering opportunities that allow you to mingle with people you wouldn’t normally run into. Working for companies and organizations that are different from what you’ve done before shows that you are able to successfully work with people of all different backgrounds and ideologies, which is a valuable trait for an employee. As well, working with a variety of different people helps you think more creatively, since you’ve been exposed to more types of thinking. You can’t go wrong with this, so look for opportunities in circles that you may have otherwise passed over.
Bonus tip: make sure to get letters of recommendation from the organizations you volunteer with! It’s a lot easier to ask for letters sooner than to call them up three years later and say “hey, don’t know if you remember me, but can you write me a letter saying how great of a worker I was?” Stay ahead of the game by asking for those letters immediately when you leave that workplace (and make sure you do so on good terms!).
Look for creative ways to work
The hard part about building a great resume in college is that we have no time to work. So, how do you gain work experience when you can’t get a typical job? You get creative.
Personally, I started blogging. Maybe you don’t like writing, but could start tutoring or, if you have a creative eye, launch web-design business. There are tons of different ways you can do this, but the main goal is to do it in a way that shows creativity, responsibility, and initiative.
For some great ideas to help you with this, check out my friend Courtney’s e-book on how to side-hustle while in college. It’s got some great tips that can help give you ideas of creative ways to start a business while you’re still in school!
Network, network, network!
I cannot stress this enough–a good connection can do more than a great resume, given the right circumstances. College is the perfect time to network, as well, since you are literally surrounded by experts in your field. As well, most schools host networking events, fairs, and the like that most of us completely fail to take advantage of!
Some of you might not like networking as much as I do (yes, I actually thoroughly enjoy it), but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. A good connection can mean an excellent recommendation for that job that you’re dreaming of, so learning how to effectively network can be a quick and easy way to strengthen your resume.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of how to build a great resume while in college. These are three things in particular that we can very easily look over! The truth is that with a little effort, creativity, and a lot of determination it is definitely possible to build a great resume, even as a student with no time on your hands!
What are some of your best resume tips?
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