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How to Build a Resume Using College Involvement as Experience

Think your college involvement isn’t applicable to your job search? Think again. [TWEET]

Entering the workforce as a professional is one of the most exciting moments after graduation. You’ve worked hard for your degree and are now ready to put those skills to the test. However, you may find yourself feeling as though those daunting job ads appear to seek more qualified team members. No need to pass the job over; when deciding how to build a resume, look to your college activities for unexpected experience.

Internships and fellowships

Most academic advisors tell their students to seek internships early in their academic career. While this is sound advice, if you must choose between a freshman internship and a senior internship, go for the latter. Employers are looking for candidates who recently used their skills. They will often choose a candidate who just completed their internship rather than one who earned an early placement, regardless of participation and achievements.

When adding internships to the resume writing, place the information under your other employment history, in chronological order. When choosing the title or position, clearly indicate this was an internship. However, choose an additional title that is closest to your actual involvement. For example, if you built websites for the company, your title would be “Computer Graphics Artist, Internship” or “Web Designer, Internship.” Never imply this was not an internship.

Clubs and organizations

Clubs and organizations are an excellent way to earn skills and job experience. This also can be tricky. The general rule of thumb is to not list organizations and clubs unless you are an officer or major team member (i.e. president, vice president, event coordinator, etc.), the organization is a chapter for the national division (i.e. national Greek organizations and honor societies), student sector of a larger professional organization (PRSSA/PRSA, SPJ, Veterinarian Association, etc.) or you participated in a large-scale event.

Try to stay away from listing religious, political or social organizations unless you know the employer supports these topics or you held a position equivalent of what you are applying for. Also be careful about listing Greek organizations. Some of these entities have bad reputations for partying. When deciding how to build a resume, don’t list anything that appears controversial or non-important.

Entry-level and minimum wage jobs

We all know college students have to work low paying jobs during their academic career. It’s just a part of life and paying your dues. Many students question whether they should list the cashier job at Walmart or dishwasher at Applebee’s. The short answer is yes, list any employment experience that is not over ten years old. Instead of listing those menial job duties, try to find ways to word the information so it fits with your career aspirations. Cashiers have client retention and communication skills. Shift supervisors can mentor and train team members. Re-wording your job description with your resume writing helps to keep the positions relevant.

Volunteer activities

Volunteerism is one of the fastest methods to learn new skills, earn valuable experience and give back to the community. Employers look for students who are a part of something bigger and want to help their fellow brothers and sisters. However, there are a few simple rules when listing volunteer ventures while building a resume. First, never call yourself a volunteer. Instead, come up with a position that closely fits the job you volunteered for. For example, if you are helping design posters for the Red Cross, you can call yourself a Graphic Designer. But do clarify in the job description this was a volunteer project. List all volunteer activities separate from job experience, unless the volunteer opportunity is directly applicable to your career path.

Putting it all together

Now that you have all the necessary experience and skills in hand needed to build a resume, what do you do next? Create a resume of course. It is advisable to hire a professional resume writer to organize, design and write your first-time resume. This prevents you from making fatal errors or misrepresenting some of your information. If you want to do your own resume writing, place education first, followed by experience, engagement and development. Recent graduate resumes should never exceed one page, and focusing on skills and abilities is more advisable than focusing on experience.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!