Pad Your Resume in College
Junior year went better than expected … and you can’t wait to put that 4.0 GPA and Dean’s List award on your resume. But what happens when you realize the rest of the page is just a whole lotta white space? Take advantage of these opportunities on and around campus to beef up your resume.
Pad Your Resume by Getting Published
You don’t necessarily have to be a writer to get yourself some published clips. “Whether it’s chemistry, biology or political science, you know something about your major and you have a point to make,” says Dr. Larry Chiagouris, marketing specialist and author of The Secret to Getting a Job After College.
• Write for your school’s newspaper. Yes, even if you’re not a journalism student. Are you a hospitality major? Sign on as a food critic. Looking to work in computer programming? Take on the technology beat. Be sure to have hard copies of your articles in a portfolio to take with you on job interviews.
• Aim higher than campus publications. Write for professional papers or journals, as well. “A lot of students don’t think of submitting to other publications because they think, ‘I’m just a student,’” says Chiagouris. “The world of professional media is so overpopulated by professors that it’s not unusual for a student’s work to get noticed.” Start with a letter to the editor, then work your way up to a feature-length article.
• Submit a piece to a website. If you’re intimidated about writing for a print publication, try a website that has something to do with your field. Lots of startup sites are looking for writers who are willing to contribute for free in exchange for the recognition.
Pad Your Resume With (Non-job) Experience
Don’t mistake the word “experience” for “work experience.” Experience doesn’t have to come from a job; You can get it from campus activities.
• Join a club. Instead of joining every club on campus, enlist in one or two and do something that will really pop on your resume. “Even if you weren’t the president, if you were someone that helped do something special, even if it was just one project, it will stand out,” says Chiagouris. If you’re a public relations major, for example, take charge of promoting the club and planning its events.
• Start a club. Senior Jason Epstein formed the Syracuse University chapter of Operation Smile, a charity that treats facial deformities. Epstein recruited an executive board, and he is founder and president. “The organization is a well-recognized club at Syracuse, with over 50 members, and it has helped me utilize and strengthen my leadership skills,” he says.
• Play sports. Earning a position on your basketball team won’t necessarily ensure you’ll get a spot on the NBA, but it shows off your level of commitment. It might also connect you with a potential employer who has similar interests.
• Help a professor. Professors typically have side projects and could use assistance. English professors are always writing books that need to be researched, and pre-med students can offer to work in a lab alongside a science professor. Epstein, for instance, spent some of his free time last year dissecting fish after volunteering to help a professor. “I had to do a bunch of reading to show I understood the material,” he says, but it ultimately landed his name on the project.
• Travel abroad. Traveling makes you a well-rounded candidate. Chiagouris advises expanding upon your travel experiences to fill out your resume: “Go into more detail and put down something associated with what was learned. If you’re an economics major, you could [include] ‘evaluate the economic systems of London compared to the United States’ [on your resume].”
• Join societies and professional groups. Participate in a national group, like the Society of Professional Journalists. It will help you network and show potential employers that you’re serious about your industry. If you can, attend some events. “These groups encourage student participation, and if a student reaches out, they’re thrilled,” says Chiagouris. “Once you’re at an event, you’ll meet people [and get their] business cards. Follow up with them for great connections.”
Pad Your Resume With Your Skills
You don’t have to have an actual job to develop skill sets. Take what you learn from all your experiences and compile it into the vital “skills” section on your resume.
• Don’t skip class. You can pick up so many skills in the classroom just by showing up. Sign up for a public speaking class, and you’ll gain great verbal communications skills. Enroll in any writing-intensive class, and your research and written skills will be top-notch.
• Be computer-savvy. Many classes rely on a particular computer program, so you’ll leave that semester being proficient in certain software, whether it’s Microsoft Office, Adobe InDesign or Minitab Statistical Software.
• Volunteer. Recent Syracuse graduate Tim Griffin volunteered at the Salvation Army and Meals on Wheels over winter breaks during college. “My current employer asked me about the volunteer experience during every interview,” he says. “I think they look for people who volunteer because it reflects well on the company’s image.”
Pad Your Resume With Awards
Potential employers often skip right over the GPA section of your resume to see what additional accomplishments you’ve achieved.
• Apply for any and all awards. Truth is, a lot of students overlook these because they convince themselves they don’t have a shot. The hiring manager doesn’t need to know you were chosen for the award out of only seven other applicants, right?
• Don’t forget about scholarships. “After sophomore year, I got an email from the school saying I qualified for an academic scholarship,” says Griffin. “When it came time to apply for jobs, it helped bulk up my resume.”