So you’ve got one year of college left and the real world is waiting with hungry jaws. Those student loans aren’t going to pay themselves and there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a job after graduation.
At this point, most students hastily assemble their resumes and send them out en masse to anyone who will look. You follow suit, but before long you realize that there’s a ton of roadblocks in your way that can be summed up in one question.
"What do I fill this with when I haven’t done anything yet?"
You’re not alone. Many college students spend their college years "enjoying the college experience" and find themselves stumped when they need to put that college experience down on paper. Well don’t panic. You can make a resume that’s just as good or even (gasp!) better than your competition in just a few semesters. You’ll need to kick it into high gear for a while, but it’ll absolutely pay off.
Here’s five ways you can boost your resume in your senior year:
1. Take Advantage of Campus Resources
The first thing you should do is immediately make an appointment with a career advisor and/or guidance counselor. It’s their job to help you be successful and they’ll have access to information you might never have heard of otherwise. You might think that your senior year is too late to ask a guidance counselor for help, but you’d be surprised at how common your situation is. Most guidance counselors have streamlined action plans specifically catered towards seniors just for that reason.
After the first meeting, try to meet with your career counselor every one to two months. You should ask them to review your resume as you fill it in and ask for assistance if you have trouble with any of the other parts of this list. However, when we say "campus resources", we aren’t just talking about counselors. People are the most valuable resource!
This means that everyone you know through school or work could provide a valuable lead or reference for your job hunt. You should exchange information with any teachers, students in your major, club members, or other faculty that you’ve built a good rapport with. Sites like LinkedIn make this really easy. However, you should make professional Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for some additional online presence. Make sure you check them daily and update them at least once a week. If you find yourself having difficulty updating your social media due to lack of professional content, it means you aren’t doing enough!
2. Get Active in Extracurriculars
Student organized clubs can be valuable talking points on interviews. Holding any sort of official position in a student organization shows that you’re able to take initiative, that you’re reliable, and that you’re willing to dedicate free time to something other than yourself.
You must be particular about the club you choose. Aim for clubs that organize community outreach (such as blood drives, marathons, and soup kitchens) or a club that falls within your major. For example, go for something like student government if you’re in a law program, or a journalism club if you’re in writing or communications. If you’re lucky, you won’t be able to find a club that matches what you’re looking for. Why does that make you lucky you ask? It gives you the rare opportunity to be the founder of a school club! Founding a school club will wow even the most jaded employer despite being surprisingly easy to do.
3. Get a Part Time Job or Internship
Part time jobs hire quickly and allow college students to make money on a flexible schedule. Aside from allowing you to pay some of your student loans while still in school, they also show that you’re punctual, loyal, and able to conduct yourself in a professional environment. The sticking point here is that the type of job you choose matters. While basic burger-flipping and shelf-stocking style jobs are way better than being unemployed, you should try to go for jobs that match your major to some degree. Menial jobs may not seem to be the best way to break into your field, but you’d be surprised by how easy it is to land your first nursing job when you’re already a receptionist in the hospital.
You can find jobs by:
- Asking around your college career center.
- Using free job searching sites like Snagajob, Monster, or Simplyhired.
- Networking through social media platforms.
- Asking friends who are already employed.
Internships are more competitive than part time jobs and often give little to no pay. However, internships will actually have you working with people in your chosen field. You’ll learn more and it looks far better on a resume than the vast majority of typical part time jobs.
You can find internships by;
- Using sites like Youtern, Internships, or Glassdoor
- Asking Teachers and Counselors
- Finding local companies in your industry via Google and cold-calling them.
Remember that less is more. You only need a 10-20 hour part time job or internship. Don’t sign up for 25+ hours if it will hurt your studies.
4. Go to Industry Networking Events
When it comes to local business events, your career center is the first place you should ask. But if there are no leads there, you can extend your search to the web and get access to some educational and possibly lucrative conferences you may have otherwise missed out on. Here are a few websites you can use;
- EventBrite has maps of event centers and allows you to easily share events with other contacts that may be interested.
- NetParty is geared towards young professionals like yourself. You can make connections with peers that will help you throughout your career.
- MeetUp is a general purpose networking site. You can find business, charity, and fun events all on the same platform.
Finding the event is only half the battle. Once you’re there you’ll actually need to network! Be sure to;
- Dress the part. Pretend you’re headed off to your first day of work for your dream company. You can never look too nice, but you can look underdressed and unprofessional.
- Bring Business Cards. You can make business cards using Microsoft word or any other word processing program with just a few clicks. All they need to show is your contact information (email, social media, phone number). Leave the watermarks and fancy slogans for bigger enterprises.
- Take a notepad for jotting down important information. It would be terrible to land an interview for your favorite company and forget where or when it is.
5. Start a Professional Blog
Starting a professional blog can be done right away and is great for several reasons. First, it gives you a chance to prove that you know more about your field than the typical college grad. Second, it encourages you to learn more about what’s going on in your field. Finally, it shows your employer that you’re actually interested in what you do. You can also use this opportunity to start a blog for your school club if there isn’t one already.
Here are some great professional blogging platforms;
- Wordpress can be intimidating at first, but it has all of the features you could possibly want. It’s definitely worth figuring out.
- Blogger is much more user friendly than wordpress but is a bit more basic when it comes to options. It’s a great option if you’re not tech savvy.
- Squarespace isn’t free, but the monthly payment is dirt cheap. It’s a great combination of ease of use and bells and whistles.
In actuality, your gpa doesn’t mean that much when you apply for jobs unless it’s very high or very low. When an employer looks at your resume, it needs to answer these three questions.
- What type of person is this?
- What makes this person stand out over the other hires?
- Is this person able to do the job?
If you follow the instructions found here, your resume will catch the eye of even the most jaded recruiter. Your volunteer work, activity in student affairs, employment history, and networking abilities will show that you’re able to take initiative and you’re hungry for opportunities. Don’t waste anymore time, get out there and give it everything you’ve got!