An acquaintance of mine is involved in so many activities that she must own a Time Turner, Hermione Granger-style. She serves as president of the university’s activities club, chair of two additional organizations, editor of an on-campus magazine, a leader in her sorority, and she juggles a full social calendar on top of classes. Without some sort of celestial magic, it seems incredible that she can manage all of these commitments. Her heavy involvement makes her goal clear: she wants a padded résumé. Like the rest of us students, she wants to get hired. But is she a recruiter’s dream or are her enthusiastic efforts actually working against her?
With the fear of not finding a job upon graduation, we take extra care to have outstanding résumés. Unfortunately, not all steps towards this goal will put your application at the top of the pile. To avoid wasting your time and stress, find out what works and what doesn’t with these five common efforts to enhance your résumé.
1. Interning in a big city or with a big company will lead to more job offers.
As a college student with idealistic goals, I have interned at a few magazines, big and small. In the process I’ve discovered that putting the name of a well-known company on a resume looks respectable, but the sad truth is that larger companies often give mundane jobs to interns and these interns can be undervalued. Working at a small company can offer more experience; with fewer employees overall, interns are usually given heavier responsibilities and more opportunities. Even more, actual employees are more likely to know your name and face, which will help make you more memorable when it comes time to look for a job in that field. Thomas Korvas, director of career services at Ohio University, says working at both a big and a small company is best. So before you turn down the smaller internship because of the company name, think about how the actual internship experience could compare to one with a bigger company.
2. Studying abroad will expand my opportunities.
Studying in another country “has so many intangible benefits,” says Ellen Gerl, assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Exploring new places and cultures are life-changing experiences, but keep in mind that it can lead to financial issues and consequently more stress. Nevertheless, Korvas suggests it is still a worthwhile experience, saying, “With the global economy we are all involved with… it is very appropriate. Equally vital is the importance of diversity and understanding different cultures.” Ultimately, the experience is valuable, but don’t assume that not going will prevent you from finding success. In all likelihood, you’ll have a super fun semester packed with crazy parties abroad, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be a more desirable job candidate when you return. It’s about how you make use of your time abroad—just the fact that you went only means so much.
3. Learning a foreign language makes me more marketable.
If knowing another language is not directly related to your desired position, it may not diversify your portfolio as much as you think. “Foreign language skills certainly make more sense for certain majors than others,” Korvas asserts, such as international business or social work. It can also expand your future career options, allowing you to act as a translator or become involved in international politics. He adds, “It makes for a well-rounded education.” But not everyone finds ease in learning a new tongue; it can consume a lot of time and isn’t always an enjoyable learning process. Evaluate whether it feels right for you and your desired career before committing to this study, since it’s possible your time could be better spent elsewhere.
4. Working while in school will suck up study time
Many people believe that having a job in college is a distraction and will overtake time that could be spent studying. But the pool of students who can afford school without working is quickly evaporating and the benefits of working while in school extend past financial gain. Having a job will require you to learn time management skills, which impress recruiters (not to mention working gives you the ability to afford books and the occasional night out with friends). “I always prefer candidates that have worked while in college. It shows a sense of responsibility, teamwork, and human relation and communication skill development,” Korvas notes. Try to find a job related to your major for an even greater boost. If you’re an English major, look for a position assisting a departmental professor, or if your major is retail merchandising, apply to a local boutique. This way, you can network, improve your résumé and make money.
5. Joining every interesting organization will make me stand out.
Like my previously mentioned over-worked acquaintance, being involved in too many activities can actually work against you. Gerl suggests that rather than join every organization that seems appealing, “be heavily involved in a small number of organizations,” adding that sometimes being active in so many clubs can project shallow intentions. Choose a few that really speak to you and opt for higher positions to showcase your leadership skills and potential.
Gerl’s final advice is “be open to experiences in areas not related to your particular field, because you are likely to have more than one career in your lifetime. So, one day it will pay off.”
Building what seems to be the perfect résumé is difficult, but while you continue to develop it during your college career, keep in mind that quality supersedes quantity. Pursue activities because you’re passionate about them, not because you think they’ll look great on a resume. Your passion is what will ultimately land you the job.
Thomas Korvas, Director of Career Services, Ohio University
Ellen Gerl, Associate Professor, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University