In my series on avoiding unemployment, we’ve learned about business cards, informational interviews, how to dress professionally, and much, much more. But, buckle up, because today’s post is about the dreaded resume.
Before I start, let me ease your mind: The resume isn’t as important as you think. Yes, it’s an important part of your job search. Yes, you have to have one. Yes, it can set you apart (in a good or bad way). But, no, it isn’t going to get you the job. It’ll get you an interview, at best.
Regardless, I’ve read a lot about resumes, talked to a lot of professionals about resumes, and worked for hours on my own resume. I’m not an expert, but I did avoid unemployment. Here’s the resume I used when job seeking this spring…
Ten tips for a resume worthy of avoiding unemployment…
- Get someone else to spellcheck your resume: It’s no surprise that you need to spellcheck your resume. But, the trick is to get someone else to spellcheck your blessed piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. If you’re serious about getting a job, you’re going to put hours into your resume, which means you’re not going to see all of the mistakes. This is true for everyone — even my grammar police out there. (Trust me, I am a proud member of the grammar police, and I had a mistake or two in mine that I missed.)
- Leave off the objective: It seems to be a contested part of the resume, but I say — just leave it off. It only wastes space and tells the potential employer nothing about you or your skills.
- Make use of the whole page: Margins, baby! If you’re like me and had A LOT to include on your resume, make those margins smaller than an inch. The whole page is yours, so do with it as you please.
- Quantify, quantify, quantify: The best advice I ever received is quantify everything on your resume and include as many numbers as possible. That’s no small task for a communication major! You want to show what you’ve done not what what you were responsible for. As a warning: this is the hardest part, and it’s going to take you awhile to figure out how to quantify things. But, it’s so, so worth it.
- Break it up: Make it as easy as possible for a potential employer to see who you are by quickly looking at your resume. I decided to use the categories of “education,” “internships,” “leadership experience,” “research experience,” and “related experience.” On other versions of my resume, I also included a “honors and awards” section. You can use whatever categories work best for you!
- Take off unrelated positions: Unless you really, really have nothing else for your resume (and I know that’s not true — see #8!), take off anything that’s unrelated to your career field. If you can’t quantify how being a camp counselor will help you at a potential position, then leave it off.
- Be okay with leaving things off: It’s hard — I know. I did a few other things in college that aren’t highlighted on my resume. At first, it was really, really hard to leave them off. But, be okay with showing the employer the most important things you’ve done, not all the things you’ve ever done.
- Word it right: I always tell people that they’ve done more than they think they’ve done. Include volunteer work, on-campus activities, and/or a part-time job on your resume IF you can show how it relates to your field. This may take some brainstorming, but just think of all of your projects and tasks and see how they can be related. If you are the philanthropy chair of your sorority and a PR major, include that you’ve planned two events for over 150 individuals that raised over $2,000 for charity. BAM — now, that’s resume-worthy.
- Have multiple versions of your resume: I know, I know — as if doing one isn’t enough! For me, I had at least two different versions of my resume: one that highlighted my public relations experience and another that highlighted my government/public affairs experience. In addition, I normally tailored it for every position depending on the job description. Don’t be afraid to play up different strengths for different positions.
- Keep track of what you’ve done: The best advice I can give anyone (especially those who are just embarking on their college career!) is to keep track of what you’ve done at an internship or job. You think you’ll remember everything you did, but in a year or two, you won’t — which makes it pretty hard to write a resume. At the beginning of my internship, I started an Excel spreadsheet and took two minutes at the end of the day to write down what I did. Now, I’ll always have a log of quantifiable achievements from those internships. (I wish I would have done this at my first two internships!)