For college students, internship season is upon us. We are all making frantic last minute adjustments to our resumes, and our lives seem to revolve around where to apply. The past week I’ve spent more time editing my resume and portfolio than I have on schoolwork.
But resumes are tricky things. It takes a lot of time and energy to make a good one—and it takes even more time and creativity to create a great one. It’s easy to throw together a boring resume. But when push comes to shove, you want yours to stand out far above the rest. I’ve consulted my own obsessive knowledge of resumes, in addition to the professional members of the Literally, Darling staff to bring you 10 tricks to the perfect resume.
1. Do away with the objective.
There will be those who will argue with this advice, but for the most part, unless you’re applying for a corporate or highly professional position, an objective is redundant and takes away space from your experience section. Most resumes do not need this. Save your objective information for your cover letter, so it can be more specialized to where you are applying.
2. Lead with experience always.
There are two schools of thought on this: some advocate putting education first no matter what, and using that space to show relevant classes or experience you gained through your education. However, I believe that pure experience is more important. Don’t short change your education and place it somewhere prominent, but let experience lead the way.
Your experience section should be the most substantial part of your resume. Keep it to relevant experience. For writers, this should be purely where you’ve written, what you’ve worked on, and where you’ve been published. Work experience should be in a different section. If you’ve had multiple jobs, you can leave off that summer you worked for a smoothie chain. Unless you have had a job with specialized skills or responsibilities that transfer over to a new position, keep it brief and relevant.
One thing to consider is organizing your resume by skill set. If you have a lot of various experiences with no real common thread, organize them by the skill sets you developed in these positions. Make it look like you have been building towards something. Your resume should tell a story of who you are and where you’re going.
3. Use numbers.
Numbers stand out in a sea of text and give you something substantial to add to your experience. If you wrote 40 articles for a site, include that. If you managed a team of 20 people, add that in. Writing for a paper that has a circulation of 10,000 is substantial. These numbers will give you a more professional feel and show the full extent of what you have done.
4. Don’t put generic skills.
The fastest way to show that you have no skills is to have things like “time management” and “independent worker” under your skills section. These things are important—but have your experience section show this. You work well on a deadline? List that under your description of what you did for you student publication. Team worker? When you collaborated on that big multimedia project, state that you did it with a team.
The skills section should include any programs you’re experienced with (Excel, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamwaver, etc.), any random knowledge you have (SEO, WordPress, analytics, etc.) or any languages you are proficient in.
5. Add in any organizations or awards or scholarships.
If you are part of SPJ or College Dems, put that! If you have won any sort of merit based scholarship, put it. If you were asked to present at a symposium or event, or you hosted a workshop, put it. These things are great “resume fodder” that can fill out your page.
6. Make your resume interesting and designed….
Avoid terrible fonts like Papyrus or Comic Sans, but make your resume a little more exciting. Unless you’re distributing a PDF, stick to basic fonts available to any computer. Add in some color! Pop in some social media icons as a way to brighten it up. Feel free to get creative!
7. But not too creative.
Unless you’re a graphic designer or working in a very creative profession, you don’t want the design of your resume to overpower the information. Design should highlight and enable your skills to shine—it shouldn’t take the center stage.
8. Consider an online portfolio.
It sounds cliche, but having a blog where you can post your writing samples or professional experiences will be a great way to catch an employer’s eye. Not only is it an easy way to have them access your information, it also shows that you have web design skills and can handle an online platform—two highly marketable skills.
9. Have multiple copies and versions of your resume.
I have a resume that focuses on my writing, one that focuses on my editing, one that focuses on my graphic design skills, and another generic version for misc. jobs. In addition, I have a plain black and white, formally structured one in Word, and another one with some color, also in Word. In addition, I have a PDF version that I created in InDesign that is very designed and colorful. Have a resume to match the position you’re going for, and make sure it’s as professional or relaxed as necessary.
10. Send it to your mom, dad, sister, brother, friend and professor.
Have someone proofread it. Then have someone else proofread it. Then have a professional tweak it. Everyone you send it to will have opinions (because everyone seems to have very strong opinions about resumes). Collect these opinions and utilize them to make your resume even better. And ask them to be merciless with their grammar checking.
Want a little extra help on your resume? Tweet or share this link within the next 24 hours and be automatically entered to win a custom designed PDF resume from the Literally, Darling graphics editor and resume consultation!
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