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5 Things to Have on Your Resume by Senior Year

You might not want to believe it, but senior year is quietly sneaking up around the corner. It all feels a little surreal right now, but once senior year does hit, things get all too real—everyone will be scrambling to find a job, juggling schoolwork and trying to squeeze in every last possible bit of fun before entering the daunting adult world all at the same time. Talk about a full plate!

Instead of frantically scrambling to put together a resume during job-hunting season, you can get a head start now before entering the chaos that is senior year. Check out these five things to have on your resume by your final year of college so you’ll be all set to impress those employers by the time recruiting season starts!

1. Internships

As college students, we just can’t seem to escape all the buzz about internships, and rightly so. In today’s competitive job market, internship experience is a must-have, and employers will have their eyes peeled for the word “intern” when they scan your resume. Ideally, work to score an internship the summer following your junior year. And if you’ve had additional internship experience from the previous summer or during the academic year, all the better.

“Employers expect to see internships on a resume because this says you have some experience in the professional world,” Martin Yate, author of Knock ‘em Dead – Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers, says. “Internships give you experience, credentials, connections, a stronger resume and references. This is why nine out of 10 entry-level jobs go to candidates with internship history. [Internships are] the ticket to a good entry-level job out of college and a fast career start.”

Remember, the internships don’t actually have to be paid to make a difference on your resume, because it’s the experience that counts! What’s valuable about an internship isn’t so much how lucrative or competitive it is rather than the experiences and learning you take away from it.

Tina Sims, who runs a resume-writing service for military members, spouses and federal employees, agrees that internship experience will give resumes an extra boost. “Many employers use a scanning technology to weed out applicants,” Sims says. “This scanning technology is looking for keywords relevant to the position, and while a college student may not have the paid experience, the scanner is only looking for the vocabulary, not whether the experience was gained while employed.”

Internships seem to have become the new entry-level jobs, so if you haven’t already, it’s high time to go out there and get some real-world experience! There are plenty of resources just a mouse click away, like WayUp and Lauren Berger’s InternQueen.com, so what are you waiting for?

2. Other work experience

Internships aren’t the only way to spruce up your resume before senior year comes around; other work experience, like part-time jobs and seasonal jobs, can also be valuable! From being a TA during the semester to working part-time at the coffeehouse down the street, work experience is work experience no matter what form it comes in, even if it isn’t exactly related to your future career plans. And you can start building it up now!  

“Work experience, even unrelated to the field of study or future pursuits, should be noted on the resume,” resume writer and career coach Jan Melnik says. “For internships and work experiences, key contributions/areas of responsibility/accomplishments should be noted, leading off with verbs.”

So whether you’re working away in a tall office building somewhere or working in retail at a local boutique, any job that you have now will not only help you prepare for the real world, but will also be one more thing you can add to your resume. 

3. Extracurricular activities

Is there a cause that you’re super passionate about? Maybe an organization you’ve been helping out or a club you like dedicating your time to? You can make a difference, have fun and improve your resume all at the same time by pursuing extracurricular activities like volunteering.

Volunteer positions and side gigs are all fair game and will help paint a clearer picture of your abilities, character and potential for the employers. By senior year, it’s good to have a number of activities besides internships in order to demonstrate how responsible and capable you are. Definitely work with what you’ve got!

If your extracurricular work doesn’t seem to relate to your field, pick and choose the ones that are the most relevant to the position you’re applying to, whether it’s because of the skills you’ve learned, because it demonstrates qualities such as teamwork or because it shows familiarity with certain aspects of the job. These entries can be included in the Community/Volunteerism/Extracurricular section of your resume, which usually comes after your Education and Professional Experience sections.

4. Work accomplishments

With your newfound job or internship also comes an opportunity that you didn’t have before—the chance to make some work accomplishments! You’ve got your awards, academic honors and leadership roles, but including work accomplishments on your resume will make you especially stand out to potential employers. While anyone can list off tasks and duties that she’s completed, not everyone can say that she went above and beyond the call of duty.

“While the tasks and duties that you have completed are important to show your experience, the accomplishments you have achieved are much more telling of the kind of employee you will be,” Sims says. “An employer may be considering two candidates who have the same experience, but the one who will stand out is the one who went beyond that experience and earned recognition for their willingness to take on additional duties or complicated projects.”

Of course, accomplishments don’t have to have been officially recognized. According to Sims, they could be as simple as solving a problem, streamlining processes, saving money or saving time. If you feel like you took the extra step and made a difference for your employers, consider including that with the rest of the job description for a certain work experience entry on your resume.

“It’s no longer enough to simply do the work you are assigned; You always want to be thinking about how you can do more,” Sims says. “The job market is very competitive now and requires one to always be striving to make a difference, to stand out above the competition. If your resume is one in a stack of 500, you will want to be sure you have really articulated your skills, abilities, accomplishments and experiences as professionally and concisely as possible.”

So take pride in your work, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and show those potential employers that you’ve got that extra little something!

5. A professional online presence

With the undeniable presence of the Internet and social media in basically everything we do, it should come as no surprise that employers are now more inclined to check out your online presence when hiring. For you, that means establishing an online presence in the first place. From the professional networking site LinkedIn to potentially more creative sites like WordPress, having a strong profile online that showcases your work and skills is a fantastic way to stand out.

“Each student should have created a full LinkedIn profile— a free account is fine—and customize their URL that is also included in resume header,” Melnik says.

According to Melnik, your LinkedIn URL can go right along with your contact information at the very top of your resume. In addition, make sure to include one good phone number with a professional voicemail that provides your full name for callers, as well as a professional-looking email address. Not only will this make you seem serious about the job, it will also make it easier for the resume reader to get a sense of who you are with one quick glance, which is always good considering how many resumes he or she has to go through!

Basically, it all boils down to showing the employers that you have a strong track record. You need to convince the hiring managers that you’re trustworthy and totally worth it. Luckily, you can start building a good reputation for yourself now, so that once the job-hunting season comes around senior year, you’ll be ready to sweep everyone off their feet!