I sometimes find myself wondering how my college assignments could possibly relate to my future career. It seems like I memorize all these theories and concepts, without knowing their practical applications. I mean seriously, has anyone in the real world ever dissected a sentence?! My favorite professors are the rare ones who make an attempt to relate what we’re learning to our futures. It’s often through assignments/projects that I’ve been able to see the things I learn in college extending into my “real life”. Lately, it seems that all my professors this semester are talking about that “portfolio” we’re supposed to be compiling. So what exactly is a professional portfolio and how do I make one?
The point of a portfolio is to be able to showcase real examples of your work to those interviewing you. It’s a way to show off your skills and strengths as a professional. What does my portfolio contain? I have writing samples from the blogs that I write for (this being one!), a letter of recommendation, feature stories I wrote for my internship over this summer and class assignments that are comparable to tasks I’d have in the workforce. I also make sure I have a few copies of my current resume just in case. I know some people keep their own personal business cards in their portfolio, as well as ones they receive.
Ultimately, what you put in your professional portfolio is up to you—whatever you think future employers would be impressed by. If you have special awards or achievements, show them off! This is your time to shine. College is a four-year period that allows you to build up and add to this crucial piece for your future, so it’s important you have something to show for it!
Creating a resume is the biggest wake up call of your life. Not only do you have to think of all the responsibilities you had—or didn’t have—at your last internship, but you need to find a way to stand out. Especially when writing a resume for the very first internship you’re applying for and the only work you’ve ever known is a good old fast food restaurant, it might be tempting to embellish or even lie. While you certainly have to sell yourself and prove to the potential employer that you can get the job done and done well, there are lots of tips and tricks to keep in mind when crafting your resume.
Most importantly, you have to tell the truth. Think of yourself as Pinocchio. Sure, embellishing your duties here and there might seem like no biggie. This particular interviewer might not call up your references and ask. That added skill that you don’t really have might not be needed for this job…but what if they do call? What if that skill’s needed? Adding to your resume might help get you an interview—or even the gig—but at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it. Knowing you lied might trip you up during the interview, especially if they call into question what you wrote (not that they’ll think you’re lying necessarily, they just need to know more sometimes). Honesty is really the best policy for jobs.
If you don’t have a lot of experience or feel like a particular internship didn’t give you a lot of responsibilities, don’t sweat it. Resumes should be limited to one page. Honestly, we’re in college—if you have that much more than a page worth of stuff to tell in a resume, I applaud you. Stick to the most relevant experiences you’ve had. Even if it was an award you won in high school or a major accomplishment, it can stay on—though eventually you’ll cut those things off as you grow in experience and more related qualifications. Instead of lying to fill out your one page, you can also discuss classes you’ve taken that are pertinent to the position. If you want to be a web design intern, add on your web design class. But also be weary of tacking on your whole schedule. Be choosy about what you list on your resume, and keep the unrelated or unhelpful off the page if possible.
In addition to being choosy about the positions you include, you have to be choosy about how you sell yourself. Your interviewer wants to get to know you—but in a work-based sense. Meaning keep your life story out of your resume! If you had a life changing trip to another country, great for you. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the page (unless you can add “speaks Italian” to your skill set or gained some kind of related experience while abroad). You don’t need to include a head shot, your random hobbies or even your likes about a particular internship. These things can come up in the interview—if they’re worthwhile—and that kind of talk can be saved for in-person.
The resume is all about the basics: who’d you work with, where did you work , when were you working there, what did you do there with a touch of why you’re qualified for the new position you’re interviewing for. For every internship or job you list, make sure to include all those details. Have at least three bullets for each describing—with action verbs, like “Researched this” and “Wrote that”–some, if not all, of your responsibilities. Include a skills section for specialties, like Adobe InDesign or html or any languages you may know. Don’t forget to have a section for your education, not just the school but possibly your GPA, if you’re on the dean’s list or anything that helps you stand out. You can also have an honors and awards section, which may include scholarships, any awards you’ve won, or any mentions of excellence. Every accomplishment, no matter how seemingly trivial, counts and can make the difference between you and another applicant.
At the end of the day, a resume is a sheet of paper. Yes, it is important and yes, you should spend the time and energy to make it look and sound nice and professional. But you in person is worth more than you on paper. So don’t sweat it if you don’t have any awards to your name or your skill set appears limited. Put yourself out there, let your personality shine in your interviews and don’t just let your resume do the talking.
The following is a guest post by Noel Rozny of myFootpath
Too bad you can’t take it with you to a job interview.
The truth is that once you enter the working world, the bachelor’s degree you worked really hard to get is going to occupy just a small amount of space on a much more important piece of paper: your resume.
That’s right: it’s your resume, not your actual diploma that future employers care about. Sure, they want to see that you graduated from college, preferably in a field related to the job you’re applying to. But more importantly, they want to see what kind of job skills you have, where you worked, and what kind of impact you had on that organization.
And the resume is they key to relaying all of this information. If it’s done correctly, your resume can get you past the hundreds of other applicants going after the same position (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate is still 8.5 %) and into the interview room.
So if you want to a job after graduation, you’ll need to start working on your resume now.
How to Get a Jump Start on Your Resume
1. Get Help From a Professional
Do you have a resume? If not, start working on yours right now. Your college or university probably has a career center on campus, so take advantage of it. The career experts there can help you build a resume from scratch and best of all, they’ll do it for free. As an alternative, there are also many professional resume writing services that can help you out for a fee.
2. Don’t Forget Collateral Materials
So you helped design the brochure for your dorm’s annual fundraiser? Awesome! Did you write a letter or article that was included in your student newspaper? Great! Get these materials together so you can take them to future interviews. Future employers don’t just want to hear about what you did, they want to see it if at all possible. Put your samples in a nice clip book or organizer and bring them to your interview. Even if you email any links beforehand, it’s still nice for your interviewer to be able to see what you worked on in person.
3. Go Digital
It’s not enough to buy some nice letterhead and call it a day. Nowadays you also need a strong digital presence, so that when recruiters Google your name, they get your LinkedIn profile and your Google+ profile, not some ridiculous Facebook photo that’s 5 years old.
If you haven’t joined these social networks yet, do it! They’ll not only help you show up positively in the search results, but they’re also great networking tools. Put up a professional head shot, use strong keywords to describe who you are and what you want to do professionally, and above all else, keep them free from profanity and other inappropriate posts.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, it’s well worth it. Job searches can take several months so the sooner you get started, the closer you’ll be to that first job out of college.
Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you.
College students are hard pressed for time; that’s why it’s so difficult to prepare for events a few months in advance. Although school keeps you busy, just remember that the main reason you’re attending college is to get a better job after graduation. Besides good grades and extra-curriculars, a part-time internship is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. Internships allow students to get a taste of what it’s like to live in an office and understand the ins and outs of the workplace. Although a lot of degrees require an internship, it’s never too early to head start (that’s right, I’m speaking to you Freshmen). Having more than one internship under your belt makes you look all the sweeter!
You can always go to your university career center for advice on places to intern. However, if you are anything like me, you have no idea where the career center is, and don’t have the time to schedule an appointment to talk about your interests with a random adviser you’ve never met. There are many different ways to find an appealing internship, even if you don’t know what career you want to delve into. Here are a few tips and ways to find internships between eating ramen and cramming the night before a test:
Make a Flawless Resume and Cover Letter. In order for employers to take you seriously, your resume must be written to perfection. If any grammatical errors exist, you will more than likely not even be considered. Don’t freak out though (it’s only your future career at stake), just take some quality time on it, and have others (that you trust) make suggestions/corrections to create the best resume you can. Consider the same steps for your cover letter, making sure you are showing this possible employer you can fulfill their needs.
Networking. This is one of the most important things you can do while in college. Knowing someone in a company you’re interested in can easily get you a foot in the door. Network through previous employers, teachers, friends, and even other family members. If face-to-face doesn’t suit your style, there’s a little thing called social networking. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+ and talk to people about what position you’re looking for. There is bound to be someone along the way who can send you in the right direction.
Attend Job Fairs. Employers know that there are students looking for jobs, especially those who are Juniors and Seniors. Make sure you stand out at these–no, that doesn’t mean you should wear a plaid suit–by showing employers your interest. Be confident and do your research on the companies that intrigue you. Asking the right questions about a company will make representatives remember you, rather than just being a name in a stack of papers.
Look at Multiple Job Site Search Engines. There are plenty of websites out there such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, LinkedIn.com, SimplyHired.com, Craigslist.com, etc. These will give you an idea if any particular employers are looking to hire, what kind of job postings there are, and what jobs are available in your area. These are great resources for finding opportunities you may have never considered.
I’m reading Campbell Biology