The best college activities to boost your resume
…Because it seems like every entry-level job requires at least three years of experience.
How do you write the kind of resume that blows recruiters away when you’re still in college and haven’t had a full-time job yet? Sounds kind of tough, right? Don’t worry. We’ll answer that question without making you fill in any scantron bubbles.
Luckily, you can use what you’re doing now —from extracurriculars to volunteer work—to show the transferrable skills you’ve learned between classes, spending time with friends, and cram sessions in the library.
“Taking part in sports, student government, newspaper, Greek life and on-campus volunteer work show that you know how to work as part of a team, multitask, deal with a range of perspectives, and think critically, all of which are important skills to showcase,” says Susan Brennan, associate vice president of career services at Bentley University.
In fact, a 2016 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that in order of importance, employers value interning, off-campus jobs, leadership in student government, leadership in an activity (or activities), on-campus jobs, participation in an academic team project, independent study, and other extracurricular involvement.
We spoke with career experts to give you a cheat-sheet for choosing college activities that will boost your resume big-time.
Get “real world” experience
Filling an empty “experience” section of your resume is easier than you think when you’re at college because there are so many resources at your fingertips—like the college newspaper. Adding a newspaper editing position to your resume doesn’t just fill space—it shows future employers (even ones not in a writing field) that you’ve handled responsibilities, met deadlines, and worked as part of a team. Hopefully you have something to show as a result too, like some well-written articles for your portfolio.
If writing’s not your thing, make an appointment with your career services department, because they can help you find jobs and internships on and off campus. If you’re starting with a blank slate, it’s a good idea to choose your work experience strategically, so your job has something to do with your career goals, or at least your major. “Start to identify your career interests early and choose jobs and internships that are intentionally aligned with your career goals and dreams,” says Anne Scammon, managing director of curricular and strategic initiatives at The George Washington University’s Center for Career Services.
If you’re a sociology major who is interested in a research career, for example, Scannon says it would be helpful to get an internship, fellowship, or on-campus research job that will give you tangible research experience and possibly even a few published pieces of work. Contact your college’s career center or reach out to your department head or professors about on-campus gigs and check Monster to find internships or part-time jobs.
Take on a leadership role
So, you’ve signed up for the debate team, the Society of College Engineers and your favorite sorority or fraternity. Congrats! You’re making an impact on campus and on your resume. Now, take it up a notch and consider running for a leadership position so you can have real bragging (and resume boasting) rights.
Different leadership roles will help showcase different strengths to an employer, says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of NYC-based career consulting firm Resume Strategists. For example, she says social chair is beneficial for a career in event planning, marketing, project management; treasurer is good for accounting or finance; and president or vice president roles will help you foster management and leadership skills that are crucial across industries.
Volunteer for a cause you love
Finally, you don’t have to limit your resume-boosting activities to campus groups or industry-related organizations. “Volunteering shows that you have integrity and are willing to put in time for a greater cause, without financial incentive,” says Valerie Streif, a senior advisor at the San Francisco-based job-search consulting firm, The Mentat.
Choose a volunteer organization that’s aligned with your personal values and professional aspirations and you’ll still get relevant “real world” experience. If you’d like to become a teacher, for example, volunteer to tutor kids in nearby schools. Interested in medicine? Volunteer at a local hospital or become an emergency medical technician for your school.