“Think about building a resume from the first day on campus,” Internship and Mentoring Coordinator Sharon Castano said.
A lot of times some thought provides a better place to start before diving into creating the physical draft of the resume, and that’s exactly what Castano wants students to know.
“Before you actually create the draft, you have to think about creating it,” she said.
She added that the time to start thinking about creating it is not the semester a student is applying for the internship.
For college students especially, this is a very critical aspect of their college career, if not the most, as it could segue into that internship one has always wanted. In order to start building the resume, students need to find ways to fulfill certain goals and become active so they have things to fill the sheet of paper that will eventually land on an employer’s desk. Wilkes’ annual club day is one of the best opportunities to learn about the various activities on campus and get involved.
“Join a club, go to the meetings, participate in community service,” Castano said.
With all this talk of building a resume, students may be wondering what a good resume should look like. At the top of the page should be your name, followed by your local address, which can be either the campus address or home address, and should be closest to the place you are applying. Beneath that will be an objective that states what you are applying for and why you are the perfect candidate for the position. After the objective must come education. The most current or recent school attended should be the starting point, working backwards from there. In terms of education, a solid rule of Castano’s is to only include a GPA if it is over a 3.0, and high school information should not be included unless it includes highly distinguishable characteristics.
“Your GPA won’t follow you after your first job,” Castano said.
However, this is not to say that grades don’t matter.
“Poor grades during your first year hurts your GPA, this will prevent you from applying to some of the best and most competitive internships,” Castano said.
Honors and awards come after the education section, which should be listed according to the respective academic institutions at which they were received. Next in line is related experience/coursework. If no related experience currently exists for you, go with the coursework but make sure that it corresponds with the position you are applying for. Again, begin with the most current or recent position held and take it from there keeping chronology in mind. This section should also include a brief job description, but should not include unnecessary articles such as “the,” “a” or “an.” Another important factor to remember is that non related work experience goes last.
The final part of a typically good quality resume are the additional categories, meaning skills and technical skills, whose existence are not to be undermined.
“Don’t discount technical skills as something everyone knows- because not everyone does,” Castano said.
The fact that campus and leadership activities should make an appearance on a resume shows that there’s a reason students are pushed so heavily for involvement on campus, and its significance in developing a resume is only one. Here should be any significant college or professional activities in which one has participated.
One of the most important points in resume building is letting the most important information take priority and the least important fall to the bottom. To illustrate this point, Castano uses something as a guideline for helping students identify what’s most important and what can wait. That something is the 10 second rule, and it goes like this: she said imagine the whole time you are resume building and you only have 10 seconds to view what’s on that page. Now, equate that scenario to fit an employer and ask yourself what it is you want them to see. What’s most important?
“Recognizing what’s important and visual layout are probably the hardest parts,” Student Development Coordinator Melissa Howells said.
In Castano’s eyes, the problem is in the studies.
“That student didn’t plan ahead and concentrate on grades from their first year,” she said. “They didn’t get involved in co-curricular activities to start formulating a resume that would make an employer look twice.”
To add to the frustration, resume writing can be a difficult task to tackle, and students may hit a bump in the road with five different people telling them how to write resumes. Despite the general rule of thumb that as a student is on the search for an internship, education should take precedence and coursework should relate to the preferred position, Castano’s response is rather comforting.
“There is no wrong way to write a resume,” she said. “What you’re doing is writing it for the person who doesn’t know you and tailoring it to the job description and employer, even in the wording you’re doing that.”
While this should provide students with a little bit of a sense of relaxation, they also need to be mindful of the fact that they are the driver of the vehicle.
“You’re in charge of making it look like you want it to look like,” Castano said. “Gear it towards where you want it to be.”
In putting together the first draft of the resume, this also means checking out where you want to intern to see what the employer is looking for. Building a resume and getting an internship go hand in hand, and Castano hopes people start to build the resume before they actually have to make the draft.
If you think there are rules to resume writing, you’re right. A few of Castano’s hard and fast rules, including the listing of the GPA, are no errors or typos, especially in transposing numbers or forgetting to document phone numbers, or you can be sure it will land in the garbage. Consistency is also key, and remember to keep the same headers on all pages.
The resume itself should be only one page, with references on the second page. Only one item or less does not require a new heading, and of course remember to list the address. In addition, a clean sheet with lots of white space also helps when the resume gets to the receiving end.
“Don’t give them anything to rethink or make assumptions about,” Castano said.
For as exasperating as resume writing can be, it is something students can learn from every step of the way.
“They can learn what they’re missing out on and how well-rounded they could become,” Howells said. “While college resumes should reflect on your concentration and major, there are still opportunities for students to get involved outside the concentration, major and field that they can, in fact, take advantage of if they haven’t already. It kind of enlightens them on what they can get involved in and what areas they’re heavy in. It gives them a little bit of a snapshot; if they’re focusing all of their time on one thing, they might find they’re missing out on other things.”
Now to enter the world of internships. First, students must meet with their advisors early on to make sure they are eligible for application. Create or update the resume and discuss changes with your cooperative education advisor. After this, identify areas of interest for interning and then send the resumes and cover letters on their way. A mock interview may also need to be scheduled. Even before that, however, review the company website. Going in with some background knowledge can make a difference.
Provided you attended and successfully completed the interview, be sure to send thank you notes to the employers. Once accepted, ask a professor to be your faculty coordinator. Schedule an appointment with the Co-op Education Office to fill out paperwork, attend the new intern meeting to receive any paperwork regarding the internship and finally complete paperwork and other assignments.
While all of this is important to consider, what is just as important is keeping in mind the distinguishing factors sought out by employers, qualities that may very well set one apart from the next person. Some include a well-rounded student who is both good in academics and time management, someone who personable, yet professional. Castano said this means someone who really wants it in their heart and fits, as opposed to someone who just wants is as something else to cross off their list.
What does she advise? “Be professional, but be yourself. Show your enthusiasm for the position, the company or organization and the excitement to learn more about your career choice.”
She said otherwise, “that’s why it’s hard to sell what you don’t believe in.”
Having to start compiling things to build a resume can be overwhelming, but students need not stress as long as they start the planning process early. To help with organization and gathering information so that it’s all in one place, take advantage of Student Development’s Co-Curricular Transcript, which allows for a list of all the events and activities a student takes part in. The resume is where students expand on those lists.
Again, Castano also said research companies.
“Trying to pull it off not knowing anything doesn’t work,” she said.
After all is said and done, there are key points to keep in mind.
“When writing a resume, being visually consistent- same font, same size, same layout- is extremely important for me,” Howells said. “When trying to secure an internship, the most important thing is going in with an open mind, going in confident, but recognizing that you’re going in to learn from the professionals in the field.”
“While an interview is an important part of getting the job/internship, the resume gets you that interview,” Castano said. “How do you get a professional to think you are a good ‘fit’ for their company or organization by looking at a piece of paper, no photo or voice behind it? Make yourself stand apart from the rest. In addition to your academic performance (good grades), the best resumes include a combination of a few or at least one of each; Community Service or Civic Engagement, a career related experience (internship or research, study abroad), participation in a sport or membership in a club that shows dedication, perseverance and your ability to work in groups.”
Furthermore, while internships are not required, they are a fundamental aspect to the student learning process.
“It is so important to simply figure out what real life experiences you want to continue pursuing,” Howells said. “It gives you a trial of “real world” experiences.” She also added, “It looks good to the employer, who now sees that you have practical experience and experiential training vs. classroom learning. While it helps students, it helps employers recognize qualified students.”
“Having an experience in the workforce and specifically in your field is essential in today’s job market, Castano said. “Considering all candidates will have obtained the same degree, real world training you receive at an internship is priceless when getting hired.”
Finally, never forget that dress attire does matter. Both Castano and Howells agree that for guys, a shirt, tie, dress pants and dress shoes are their best bet, and for the ladies, a blouse and skirt, or dress pants, with dress shoes will do.
“Each organization is different, but based on location, you can never go wrong with business casual, Howells said. “I always say it’s better to be over dressed than under dressed. First impressions are everything.”
In the end, if the whole process seems too complicated and you feel some direction would be the magic ingredient to help that, stop by Castano or Howell’s office and ask for the help you need.
For those looking for help in these areas for graduate school or beyond, contact Career Services Director Carol Bosack.