Yeah, yeah, you’re barely on top of your academics let alone your social life, so why toss professional development into the mix? Aside from the additional lines on your resume, it provides mental breaks from those pesky academic burdens. As always, balance is key. It shouldn’t necessarily turn into a justifiable form of procrastination. And nor should school hinder your ability to commit to a job or volunteer opportunity. When in balance though and given the right circumstances, resume building expands your social circle, introducing you to communities you perhaps wouldn’t encounter otherwise, and offers perspective. Here’s how to effectively search out these opportunities, fleshing out your resume and likely scooping up a few references along the way.
Work, work, work, work, work, work
They’re the meat and potatoes of any resume: current and previous jobs. However, don’t overthink ‘em. Illustrious internships sound delightful, but aren’t always possible. And there’s no reason to turn your nose up at retail, hospitality, administrative or more labour-intensive positions either on- or off-campus. Whatever the environment, there are skill sets to develop, which you can then list on your resume or share in a job interview. Keep your eyes open for help wanted signs, check out the classified section of your local paper or classified sites and pay a visit to your campus careers centre.
Give a hand
Too often the victim of either overthinking or undervaluing, volunteer experience is as worthwhile as previous employment. Yes, campus clubs, societies and other branches of student life departments occasionally organize one-off or limited volunteer opportunities, but, unlike jobs, I recommend searching exclusively off-campus. (Although you don’t necessarily have to stray outside your neighbourhood.) In this case, you can tailor your search to your interests or areas you wish to learn more about (not what some university administrator chooses for you). Select an organization that respects its volunteers, offers long-term opportunities and shares similar values. Most not-for-profits have volunteer programs. And even if not advertised, e-mail them. No one likes to turn down free help.
Aside from the skills you gain through employment and volunteering, consider certifications or skills-based courses outside your academics. (It doesn’t mean more essays. I promise.) First aid and CPR and other health-related certifications are often requirements for volunteer positions and jobs. Depending on your level of tech-savvy, there’s no harm in (finally) learning how to navigate Microsoft Excel or Photoshop. And you don’t need to major in French to boost your fluency. Track down conversation groups, one-on-one tutors or community classes. In the case of any certification or course, Google is your best friend.
And the award goes to…
Beyond the glamour of a paper certificate or awkward employee of the month mug shot, awards are the perfect buttons to a resume. Whether they’ve heard or it or not, awards show potential employers you’ve demonstrated a level of commitment and excellence worthy of recognition. Now, of course, they should never serve as a form of motivation. Keep your eyes open for applications with requirements that match your experience and skill set and visit your student awards or scholarship department for further assistance.