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The Quarantine Resumé: How to Get Involved in the Age of COVID-19

If you’re anything like me, you might have had a moment (or many moments) of panic around mid-April or May once it finally set in that quarantine wasn’t just a month-long break from reality. It has become the new reality. The world as we knew it was being shoved head-first into unprecedented waters without so much as a flashlight to guide us. Every day my mind raced more, hinging on doubt upon doubt as they came to me: Are we going to be okay? How long will this last? What will campus be like? Will anyone even be on campus? How are classes going to work? Will tuition still be worth it?

And sitting dauntingly at the top of my worry list: What will this mean for my resumé?

It’s selfish, I know. It feels so unimportant in the greater context. But as someone hoping to get into medical school in a few short years, time is basically gold. In quarantine, it’s easy to feel helpless, like you’ve been robbed of a lot of time. Whether you’re looking to impress the admissions team of your dream law school, knock it out of the park at your grad school interviews, or get the job you’ve been hoping for, chances are you’ve had a moment or two of stress thinking about what in the world you’re supposed to do now.

So before you panic too much about COVID-19 robbing you of that flashy golden resumé you’ve been meaning to start building at your campus, I’ve got you covered. The world didn’t actually stop spinning—even though it might feel like it right now!—so don’t let your resumé run dry in the meantime. A few years from now, you might get asked in an interview what all you did during the 2020 pandemic. You won’t want to look back and say that you did nothing.

Here are a few ideas I gathered from my time spent as your friendly neighborhood overachiever:

Make & Donate Cloth Masks to Your Local Hospital

Okay, bear with me here—I had never even touched a sewing machine before summer 2020, and I’ve already been able to make dozens of cloth masks that look like you could have bought them at the store. Making them is a skill that you have to practice a bit, but once you have it down, you’ll be whipping out masks from muscle memory in no time.

There are a myriad of different sewing templates out there for free on the internet that you can use. I just did a quick Google search of the name of a local hospital in my area followed by “homemade mask requirements,” and the hospital website had everything you need to know, including donation drop-off information, material requirements (most places require cotton), and even a how-to article on how you can make the masks yourself!

Making handmade masks to donate is both impressive and adds a heartfelt touch to your resumé. This is a great one especially for people who are wanting to go into the medical field for obvious reasons, but it can be just as powerful for those exploring other fields, particularly if you’re able to connect what you’re doing to why you’re doing it.

Volunteer at a COVID-19 Testing Site

If you’re not at high risk yourself or in physical contact with others who are high risk and you’ve been social distancing, think about actually volunteering some of your time at a testing location! Search around for sites near you that are in need of more staff or volunteers.

Non-profit organizations that provide mobile medical clinics (such as Remote Area Medical in Louisville) are in great need of volunteers to work some of their COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites. You could work registration or help direct cars in line.

It might not be the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, but it shows that you are willing to put yourself at an elevated risk for the greater good.

Work as a Contact Tracer

All across the country, health departments are still looking for more people to volunteer as contact tracers. An initial training is required, but generally only limited credentials such as a high school diploma are needed in order to begin the process.

As a contact tracer, you would personally be playing a crucial role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 by reaching out to those who have tested positive, as well as those they might have unknowingly infected.

Similar to volunteering at a testing site, contact tracing is a critical job that looks good on a resumé—not to mention the fact that it’s completely remote and pays between $17-22 an hour.

Bring a New Club to Campus

Everyone loves a leader. Whether you’re an aspiring journalist, engineer, artist, nurse, attorney, or anything in-between, I can almost guarantee there’s a new club right up your alley that’s just itching to be started at your school.

Each college has its own process and existing slew of student organizations, but at least look into the possibilities! To get you started, think about some of the more well-recognized clubs like Habitat for Humanity, TED-ED Club, and HerCampus Media.

Write Thank You Notes to Healthcare Workers

It might seem insignificant, but now more than ever it’s so important to be thanking medical workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Get a group of friends together at a socially distant location and spend just one or two hours writing letters to drop off at a local hospital.

It just takes a little bit of effort and coordination to transform your resumé from “I wrote a few thank you cards to healthcare workers” into “I planned and organized a successful letter-writing event to give back to the healthcare heroes where we collectively were able to send over 300 letters.” Go the extra mile and don’t sell yourself short.

Get Involved in Politics

With the election coming up quickly in November, think about what you can do to get involved, even if you’re not looking to go into politics or law as a profession. Campaigns at virtually all levels—city, county, state, etc.—are looking for young volunteers.

This could involve making phone calls, putting up signs, you name it. Alternatively, you could volunteer as a poll worker. In the age of the pandemic, poll workers are desperately needed; especially with the traditional majority of poll workers being over the age of 61, polling sites are really in need of younger volunteers at a lower risk for contracting serious complications from COVID-19.

Apply for Research Opportunities

Many research opportunities on campus have been put on hold for the semester or at least look different this year, but there may still be ways you can get involved. Having a research background looks impressive and professional on a resumé, and there still might be ways you can volunteer remotely.

Get Certified to Make Yourself Stand Out

I’m not saying you need to go out and learn a new language, necessarily. But I am saying there are a ton of certifications (many of them free) out there in a skill or two at which you’re likely already somewhat proficient.

For instance, most college-aged people know the basics of making a presentation. However, most college-aged people are not certified in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Powerpoint. There are also different certifications available through Google, various design programs, and even a few accredited medical resources. While it might not be something you would immediately think of when trying to add to your resumé, documented aptitude at spreadsheets or presentations could set you apart from other applicants, depending on what you want to go into. At the very least, it could make you more marketable.

Olivia Ossege

Louisville '23

Olivia Ossege is sophomore at the University of Louisville and is majoring in psychology pre-med with a minor in creative writing. She grew up in Alexandria (Northern Kentucky) and has one little brother. She has worked at a daycare as a two-year-old teacher for almost four summers now, and she is involved on campus as part of Louisville's Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School (GEMS) program, The White Squirrel Magazine, and Chi Omega sorority. Olivia makes digital art to sell on Redbubble.com during her free time, and is working on a novel. She has plans of one day working in pediatric medicine, but writing and art will always have a special place in her heart.
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