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5 Common Resume Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Resumes: the dreaded word. Thinking about updating your resume may trigger your fight-or-flight response, but I promise, it doesn’t have to be that stressful. As college students, resumes can be tricky to navigate, especially when it feels like you don’t have enough “real world” experience. We’re in that phase where we’re sort of adults, but also aren’t? As a result, it can be hard to know how to format your resume, which experiences to emphasize, and how to best sell yourself to a potential employer. Here are some common mistakes you might be making on your resume and some tips to fix them.

You’re not including student organization experience.

The great thing about Emerson is that there are so many clubs to join that give you valuable professional experience. Whether you work for an on-campus magazine, participate in student productions, or serve in SGA, you are gaining practical skills and leadership experience that employers will want to see. I’ve seen college students shy away from including extracurriculars on their resume because they feel like they’re not “official” work experience, but you’re dedicating your time and passion toward these projects, so you should include them on your resume. Plus, if you’re still a student, it’s not like you’ll be expected to have a ton of experience outside of school.

You’re inconsistent.

Being detail-oriented is an important trait at any job, so your resume should be clear of any inconsistencies and errors. For example, pick one way to write the date: don’t say November 2019 in one entry and 11/19 in another. If you’re talking about past jobs and experiences, use past tense verbs and vice versa for positions you currently hold. Be sure your email on your resume matches the email on your cover letter if you included it. These are just a few of the major errors people accidentally leave in their resumes, so be sure to proofread, which brings me to my next mistake…

You aren’t asking people to read your resume.

Second opinions are great, especially because the whole point of a resume is to impress people you’re sending it to. Having a friend or family member be a second pair of eyes could make all the difference. You’ve probably looked at your resume for far too long at this point for your view to be objective. You can also send your resume to Career Services at Emerson, all without even leaving your bed. I did this last semester, and the feedback I received was prompt and super helpful.

You’re selling yourself short.

Don’t be wishy-washy about your capabilities—flaunt those skills! This means using active words that indicate leadership and initiative. For example, you usually don’t need to say you “helped” with a project or task; just say your role. Even if you’re not the best at something like Photoshop but know how to use the program, include it in your skills. There will always be time later to brush up on any skills you don’t feel too confident in. It’s the age of the Internet, y’all: you can learn how to do virtually anything.

You’re including experience that is no longer relevant.

Resumes shouldn’t be longer than a single page, so you don’t have the most real estate space to work with. This means that your resume should only include experience and skills that are applicable to the position you’re applying for. I had this problem where I felt like I needed to include actual employment on my resumes for publishing internships, where my work experience was less important than my extracurricular publishing experience. Don’t feel like you need to include every single thing you’ve ever done on your resume, even if you think it’ll look weird if you have gaps in experience or no paid employment. You can expand on this in your interview if you really find it necessary, or you can use your LinkedIn to encompass all of your experience. Also, let’s not forget that you shouldn’t use the same resume for every single position you apply for. Applying for a part-time job will need an emphasis on skills that are different from what you’d need during an internship.

Hopefully, following these tips will let your resume shine for the glorious piece of work it is. Now open up that Word document—it’s time to update your resume!

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Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College, concentrating in publishing and minoring in psychology. Avid defender of cats, coffee after dinner, and young adult books.
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