A few years ago I responded to two questions about how to help college students start developing information for their resume. I “re-discovered” what I wrote the other day so thought I’d share the information here. The first question asked: “What advice would you give college sophomores as they start to think about developing their career documents.” I’ll post the other question and response later this week.
For college sophomores:
Find your passion. It sounds counterintuitive, but before you start developing any career tools, you need to know what you want to do. It’s important to know your target audience so your resume, cover letter, VisualCV, bio, portfolio, everything, focuses on what the potential employer seeks. Your skill set has to resonate with your audience. A potential employer does not care about what you’ve done until you put it in the context of what you can do for them.
This doesn’t mean you’re making a decision about what you’re going to do for the rest of your natural life, could be, but don’t put that much pressure on yourself. Find what excites you now. It may or may not change, however if you don’t take charge in some way, life and your career will happen to you, instead of you making it happen.
For some, knowing what they want to do is easy. You know the type. They’ve known they wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, stockbroker, business owner … almost since they were born. They can skip the “find your passion” part of the process. They’ve already got focus. For everyone else, talk to people, try different things. Information interviewing is a great way to figure out what you want to do. Don’t dismiss opportunities on preconceived notions. Every job has its good points and bad points. Until you take time to investigate and ask questions, you won’t know about the good or the bad. Remember, they call it work for a reason. It’s not all fun.
Another way to investigate your passion is through volunteering – for extra class projects or community service organizations or both. You’re not only discovering a career path, building a network and accumulating skills, you’re learning more about yourself. As you get more involved, be sure to write down the things you did in qualifiable, quantifiable, accomplishment-driven terms. “Volunteered for sorority fundraiser” is nice, but isn’t selling what you did. Document, document, document the details: make note of how many people attended, money raised, how donations were solicited, number of sponsors and donors that participated, prep work required, number of booths and vendors, where did the money go, how did the recipients benefit … well you get the idea.
The same goes for class projects and assignments, write down how many people worked on the project, required steps for completion and the result. You think you’ll remember the details. You won’t. You think it’s not important. It might be. More is better when starting to gather information for career documents. You can select what pertains and edit details as you develop documents. Remember, skills are skills whether you were paid or not while learning them. Those skills are the building blocks for your career documents. You can’t sell what you can do for a potential employer if you don’t remember the details. (This is a good idea to carry through your entire career.)
As you’re building your professional portfolio, don’t overlook social media. This is a powerful tool to start building a brand, differentiating yourself and supporting your career goals. Use it wisely. This means keeping questionable pictures and controversial statements off the Internet. If you don’t want to see it on a billboard in front of your parent’s house, then it doesn’t belong on the Internet. You, at 23, starting your career and trying to impress a potential employer will see things quite differently than you did at 19 or 20. Have fun with social media, but think before you post or comment on a blog. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for good, regardless the delete button you just pushed.