It is one of the most important aspects of a job or internship application, yet one of the most difficult to construct. With students looking for summer internships and jobs, sending the perfect resume is on everybody’s mind. However, the process can be tricky and exhausting without guidance while crafting your resume. University Career Services is a great place to go for those students unsure of where to begin or who need help polishing their resume.
“We help students think about their resume when they are starting from scratch, and we also do resume reviews or feedback sessions,” said Kendra Nelsen, Director of Student Services at UCS.
The first thing to think about when writing a resume is to define one’s goal.
“People often bring in a resume, and it’s all over the place. It’s great to have a great deal of competencies and skills, but the person must be able to capture it in a way that helps the audience know what the relevance is for the position or scholarship,” said Nelsen.
Once a student understands his or her goal in crafting the resume, a student should think about what he know about himself, how he knows that about himself, and how to incorporate that into the resume. The list of experiences one can incorporate in a resume is very broad, ranging from a hobby, to a job, to class assignments, to internships or volunteer activity.
“I started by making a list of all the activities I was involved in, awards I had received, internship and work experience. After that, I chose the experiences that were most relevant to the job I wanted and that gave me the best experiences. However, I still keep a long running list of everything that I’ve been involved with so that I can look through it to see if I have any relevant experience for a new job I’m applying for,” said Tyler Harris, a third year student in the McIntire School of Commerce.
Nelsen echoes Harris’s comment by noting that a student should look at what he is submitting the resume for and then pull out the things with the most relevance to highlight on the resume.
“Everything [on your comprehensive list] feels important to you, but you have to pick and choose what is most relevant. You need to make it easy for admission officers or employers to read your resume,” said Nelsen.
It is also important to remember to include those personal attributes that have professional relevance, skills, competencies and strengths that are easy or innate for you; often, these are the skills that a student forgets to include. In addition, including those tasks you are passionate about is critical.
“I hope to highlight my experience, accomplishments and passions in my resume, while demonstrating my personality through he wording, phrasing and style of the resume itself,” said Nic Newman, a third year student in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Crafting different resumes for different jobs is also key in order to show relevant experience in the industry.
“I have several versions of my resume, each for different types of jobs, and no one of the resumes is the same. Framing my resume for the specific audience helped to create a stronger resume, but it also required research about what the specific employer was looking for in a candidate,” said Harris.
Another way to make a student’s resume standout is through its category headings. Resumes should begin with the student’s name followed by their education. For college students, because everything revolves around the current education, it is vital that education is listed first or second.
“Beyond that, students often list work experience, volunteering and leadership,” said Nelsen. “You must have relevant headings that relate to your strengths and also relate to what the job description reads.”
Harris changes the headings of her sections in order to distinguish her resume from more generic ones, which use the bland headings such as “Work Experience” and “Extracurriculars”.
“I tried to use titles that told more of a story and spoke more to my skills. For instance, on my arts resume, I have a title that is ‘Creative and Artistic Leadership’ and underneath is information about my leadership in arts organizations.
Nelsen acknowledges that students are often uncomfortable tooting their own horns and thus have vague section heads. However, she suggests thinking of it as a way to help the recruiter sort through an enormous stack of resumes rather than a mechanism of vain self-promotion. Newman suggests using descriptive words in order to keep resumes brief and easy to read for the reader.
“I made things stand out on my resume by being brief. Brevity is key. I made experiences stand out by using active verbs.”
Another important factor to consider when creating the resume is to try and keep it to a page. This is the general rule of thumb for students coming out of college, although some industry sectors allow for two pages. Looking at resume examples is another way a student can be guided in their resume creation process.
“I looked at a number of different resumes before beginning my own, ultimately taking bits and pieces that I liked to create a resume that was distinctly ‘me.’ Doing a line-by-line copy of a Google resume is bound to be inadequate,” said Newman.
Finally, reviewing your resume with the help of friends, teachers, advisors and employers will help to polish your resume’s content and format. Resumes are a constant work-in-process that should be tailored to each job and constantly updated as students accumulate more experience. “The more opinions I got, the better and more direct my resume became. [My resume] is still very much a work in progress,” said Harris.
This is the first installment in a series of stories that will shed some light on how to get an internship for this summer! Keep an eye out for tips on how to write a good cover letter and where to go to begin your internship search. If you need professional help with your resume, be sure to make an appointment with UCS or go to Bryant Hall during walk-in hours, this article does not replace the guidance of a professional. UCS’s website is http://www.career.virginia.edu/.