How can I build my resume while in college?

September 26, 2017

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Finding your first full-time job can be challenging and intimidating. Make your job search easier and more productive by focusing on strengthening your resume while you’re still in school. Here are some ways you can build up your resume now to improve your chances of being hired.

Get a summer internship

Summer is a great time to add work experience to your resume. Full-time or part-time internships provide you with the real-world experience that employers are looking for. If you can’t find an internship but are interested in a particular industry or company, consider “creating” an internship by volunteering your time. See “Does it matter where I do my internship.”

Focus your internship search to positions or companies that are related to your field, even if it is tangentially related. Internships outside of your field are still worth having because they give you experience in a professional environment and develop transferable skills (such as working with clients). See “How to leverage your small internship into a big opportunity.”

Become a TA or tutor

Becoming a TA or tutor will show employers your subject matter expertise and ability to communicate and teach. Talk to your professors and school or search online (Wyzant.com is a great place for this) for tutoring opportunities. This is a fantastic way to build experience on your resume.

Get involved in extracurricular activities and volunteer work

Extracurriculars are the easiest way to boost your resume. Extracurricular activities can increase your industry-specific expertise, build your skills, and show employers you are well rounded. Make sure you actually take on leadership and other responsibilities within your extracurriculars and not just join them to pad your resume. Read “What extracurricular activities should I include on my resume?” for activity ideas and how to highlight them on your resume.

Take advantage of opportunities for entrepreneurship

College can be a good place to create something new, such as by conducting your own research, starting a micro business, or forming a club. If you start a business, it does not need to be the next Google. It can be as simple as selling baked goods around campus. This is invaluable experience that employers will love! This will also show how you’ve taken initiative and shown creativity.

Excel in your studies

It may seem obvious to focus on your classes while in college, but some people make the mistake of overdoing it with their extracurriculars at the expense of their grades. Many employers are looking for strong GPAs from entry-level candidates since you won’t have much work experience to demonstrate your performance.

Having a high GPA and academic awards on your resume will impress employers with your work ethic and expertise. Also, use your resume to highlight courses and class projects related to jobs you are applying for. See “When to include your GPA on your resume.”

Gain skills and industry knowledge outside of your course load

You can learn skills required for a job outside of the classroom or workplace. Evaluate what skills you need for the types of jobs you want after college. For example, maybe your future job will require a background in data analysis, Photoshop, or financial modeling.

Attend training programs, workshops, and seminars to gain these skills. You can usually pick up a new skill for free or less than $200. However, these skills can greatly enhance your resume by showing dedication to the field you are pursuing. Make sure to add to your resume the programs you attended, certifications you earned, and skills you developed.

Obtain part-time internships during the school year

Internships are not just for the summer. Many companies would love to have a part-time intern during the fall or winter. Ask around and you’d be surprised to see the opportunities that pop up. As with your summer internships, make sure these are related to the field you are pursuing. These school-year internships build your skills and work experience while leaving time for your studies. Additionally, working during the school year demonstrates your time management capabilities.

You are not going to be able to do everything that looks good on a resume – trying to will result in suboptimal outcomes and could make you seem unfocused to an employer. Focus on resume builders that are most interesting and important to your career path.

If you are not sure what activities are available or which will look most impressive to your future employers, discuss your career goals with your college’s career counselors, alumni in your field, and other connections you have. They can help you determine what qualifications are most important for you to pursue and what areas of your resume you need to further develop.

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