Can You Use Academics to Pad Your Resume?
It’s the question college students all over the world are asking: can academics balance out a lack of real world work experience on a resume? It’s a valid question and an important one seeing as how employment is harder than ever for recent graduates to obtain. Even more aggravating is the fact that most recent graduates are finding themselves forced to take jobs that are low in pay and stature and only the very lucky are able to get those jobs in their field of study.
It’s enough to make any student want to run for the nearest retail shop, bank teller application or burger joint. Any employment has to look better and make you more competitive than no employment, right?
Not necessarily. The truth is, employers want to see a mixture of work and academics. Too much of one or the other (or going all of one and none of the other as some have tried) will get your resume sent straight to the trash bin.
So how do you do this? How do you find work experience while you are still in school? More importantly, how do you find relevant work experience while you are still in school? Most importantly, how do find relevant work experience that won’t take away from your studies and jeopardize your performance in school? Here are a couple of tips.
The All Important Internship
Current students are incredibly lucky: most internships offered these days come with pay. This was not the case even as recently as ten years ago. The pay might not be much but it’s better than doing all of that schlepping for free, right?
The reason that “any work experience you can get” doesn’t cut it is that employers want to see that you’ve put in a few hours in the field. Sure those hours might have been spent schlepping coffee and doing filing but if you can get a good recommendation out if it? That recommendation will mean much more than the recommendation you’d get from your fast food boss.
Internships are incredibly important for a few reasons. Obviously they allow you to gain “real world” experience in your field of study. Most schools now include them as part of their degree requirements so you’re probably going to have to do at least one whether you want to or not. The biggest and the best reason to do an internship, though, is that it gives you a foothold into your field. A lot of interns are able to turn their internships into full time employment with the same company after they graduate.
Extra Curricular Activities
Yep, they mattered on your college applications and they matter on your resume as well–at least as much as the classes you took (sometimes even more so). Before you rush to put “Dorm Video Club” on your resume, though, know that you shouldn’t be listing all of your extracurriculars on your resume. What you should be doing (and listing) are extra curriculars that pertain to your field. For example: if you are hoping to become a therapist one of the best extracurriculars you can have is peer counseling. Peer counseling gives you real world counseling experience (it requires some training) and looks great on your resume.
Presentation is Important
Whatever you choose to do to get your academic and work experience in the bag, remember that if you can’t present it well on your resume, nobody will probably ever know about it. A lot of students rush to include everything they’ve ever done on their resumes. This is not a great idea. Two of the best resume writing tips you will ever receive is to keep your resume limited to your relevant experience (work and academic) and to limit that document to a single page, or two pages at most.
Finally, try not to panic. It might take some time but if you are persistent and creative you can get the job you want in the field you love. We promise!