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How to Make Your Extracurriculars Sound Best on Your Resume

Collegiettes often spend endless amounts of time working on extracurriculars. Maybe you’re sleeping in the newspaper office or spending your entire weekend drafting student government legislation. Maybe you’re planning in-depth events for your sorority or forgoing sleep to plan a fundraiser for a club.

Whatever the case, you pour serious time into your out-of-class activities, and that should come across on your resume. The problem is, as collegiettes we often miss this point when describing our activities outside the classroom. We gloss over the information employers really want and fail to communicate how professional our experience really is.

Don’t stress, though! Her Campus is here. We spoke with Angel Wood, a career development counselor at Appalachian State University, and brought in real resumes from collegiettes to see how they could be improved. Here are her tips on how to genuinely reflect the time and effort you put in outside of class.

Problem #1 — You assume people know what you do

Many people’s resumes have one essential problem: they’re entirely too vague. Often, being concise is a concern, but one or two lines of information is not enough. “Don’t assume people know how you work,” Wood says. Employers don’t know what the deputy executive treasurer does, so make sure you’re giving a description of your position and duties. Try to pull out your accomplishments as well. Did you have 10 articles on the front page of your campus magazine? Include that. Did you bring the business club to a first-place win in a national competition for the first time? Always pull out numbers—tell employers if you increased your club’s web traffic by 50 percent or raised $1,000 for a local nonprofit. And remember to discuss your progression. If you started out as treasurer and eventually became president, make sure that’s reflected on your resume.

The resume:
Member, Alpha Phi Sorority
“I serve as the Panhellenic Delegate on the Executive Council of my sorority.”

The problem:
What does a Panhellenic Delegate do? People outside the Greek system—even people outside your specific organization—likely have no idea.

The fix:
Panhellenic Delegate, Alpha Phi Sorority

  • Serve as ambassador between sorority’s executive council and university’s full Panhellenic council
  • Present philanthropy events to Panhellenic council to solicit support
  • Built partnership with four other organizations for philanthropy event which raised $1,500

Problem #2 — You forget to sell yourself

The entire point of a resume is to sell yourself, so what skills are you selling? Think about your assets and the assets employers are looking for. Think about the communication skills you gained. Did you manage anyone? Did you work with diverse groups of people? Include that experience. “I think people, if they’re an officer in a club or organization, often forget about the supervision piece and the training piece. Those are big ones and people downplay them,” Wood says.

In addition to leadership, think about writing and marketing skills. Did you do informal PR for your organization: posters mocked up in InDesign, announcements made in your classes, newsletters? All of that is valuable experience. Think about your event-planning experience and what went into it. Did you plan a sorority social or an alumni event? What experience did you gain? And make sure you include any phone or networking skills as well. If you’ve worked with donors, alumni or university leadership, that’s taught you to maintain professionalism and interact with people who are in a different place in their life than you and employers want to know.

The resume:
Member, Campus Christian Fellowship

  • Worked on fundraising team for organization
  • Attended twice-weekly meetings

The problem:
The resume above offers no marketable skills to employers. They have no idea what you did on the fundraising team, and probably don’t care much about the twice-weekly meetings you attended.

The fix:
Fundraiser, Campus Christian Fellowship

  • Solicited local businesses for donations
  • Designed promotional materials using Adobe Illustrator and InDesign
  • Wrote press releases which were picked up for publication in four local media outlets
  • Helped plan auction which raised $2,000 for organization
Related: 7 Ways To Beef Up Your LinkedIn Game Before You Start Networking

Problem #3 — You forget about scale and detail

One of the biggest problems with the resumes Wood looked over was the lack of specifics. When you’re crafting the document yourself, make sure to include numbers, figures, lists and anything that gives an employer a clear picture of what you did. Include the number of people you supervised directly. For each position, make a list of the computer programs (like the Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Excel) you used and mastered. List the number of events you planned, the number of articles you wrote or the amount of money you raised. “It’s not that you have to delve into great detail, but don’t make people assume,” Wood says.

The resume:
Senior News Reporter - Student Newspaper

  • Established mastery of AP style
  • Improved interview and communication skills
  • Learned how to work with group of people

The problem: 
What was the scale of your work as a reporter for your student newspaper? How much did you write? How many people did you manage, if any?

The fix:
Try something more like this…
Senior News Reporter - Student Newspaper

  • Wrote two articles per deadline, two deadlines per week
  • Reported on town/courts and student government association
  • Managed assignments for two intern news reporters
  • Contributed around 50 published and bylined articles per semester

Problem #4 — You underestimate how much you’ve done

Likely the biggest problem with collegiette resumes is how much they just plain leave out. Wood says she’s spoken with students who left fundraising teams, club presidencies and sorority or fraternity leadership positions off their resumes. The advice here is simple: don’t do that! Sit down with friends and family for a brainstorm of your college experience. Often, they’ll come up with an addition you never would have considered. If you worked hard, it’s very likely that you gained experience, so don’t automatically assume a position should be left off. And make sure to visit your college’s career center so they can help you emphasize and articulate your strengths in the best way, along with helping you understand which activities are best included on your resume.

The resume:
Extracurricular Activities - University Chorale, Gamma Beta Phi

The problem:
The resumes above listed a music group and an honor society in one line on a resume. The problem was, the student was the treasurer of her choir and participated in a ton of service projects through Gamma Beta Phi. That’s all valuable experience!

The fix:
Treasurer, University Chorale

  • Handled monthly dues and deposits for 75-member group

Member, Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society

  • Participated in multiple service projects, including monthly cleanup of New River
  • Initiated new partnership with local Habitat for Humanity

Problem #5 - You’re not using the “right” words

Word choice makes a huge difference and can make it obvious that you’re a young professional ready to enter your industry, or that you’re not. If you’re in journalism, for example, make sure you’re “pitching” seven articles a week, not “coming up with ideas.” You’re “editing” copy, not “proof-reading” it. And you’re “fact-checking” at your magazine internship, not “researching.” There are similar buzzwords across all industries, and keeping up with them shows that you’ll know your stuff when you arrive on a company’s doorstep. Have a professor or another professional in your industry look over your industry and make sure you’re using the right terminology for your trade.

The resume:
Social Media Coordinator, Circle K

  • Managed Twitter, Facebook accounts for 200-member club
  • Increased web traffic by 25 percent, Facebook fans by 200, Twitter followers by 275
  • Made website using Joomla
  • Compiled list of links clicked on, websites leading to our site

The problem:
Whoops—no! While the detail here is great, that’s nowhere near the terminology used in the social media biz. You need to make it clear that you’re familiar with your industry!

The fix:
Social Media Coordinator, Circle K

  • Managed Twitter, Facebook accounts for 200-member club
  • Increased web traffic by 25 percent, Facebook fans by 200, Twitter followers by 275
  • Built website using Joomla
  • Turned in monthly report of clicks and referrers

Ultimately, the goal of a resume is to sump of your experience for a potential employer: clearly, concisely and in good detail. Make sure those bullet points for your extracurriculars accomplish that goal and make sure your hard work is understood and appreciated.

Angel Wood, Career Development Counselor, Appalachian State University
Sharyn Byers, Appalachian State University (offered resume)
Kelli Straka, Appalachian State University (offered resume)
Anne Buie, Appalachian State University (offered resume)
Audrey Broadway, Appalachian State University (offered resume)

Meghan is a senior at Appalachian State University, majoring in Public Relations with a nonprofit concentration. She lives in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina and holds the biased opinion that it's the most heartbreakingly beautiful place in the world.  She spends most of her time surrounded by words - as a contributing writer for Her Campus, the Associate Editor for Editorial Content at The Appalachian, and a blogger for USA TODAY College. She fell in love with journalism when she interned for High Country Press, a newspaper and magazine in North Carolina. She also dabbles in creative writing on her personal blog. In the future, Meghan's interested in any and all careers that involve writing, editing and people. For now, she hopes to see as many places, read as many books, and have as many conversations as she possibly can.  Reach Meghan at meghanfrick@hercampus.com. 
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