Summer internships. Two words, but one phrase, that carry a lot of weight for college students of all age, including myself. Being a junior, there is the looming worry about landing that perfect internship that will set me up after graduation. There's all kinds of things you hear from upper-class men friends like, "OMG if you don't intern now you'll never get hired", "You need to intern at a huge company", or "This is your last chance to do something!" No wonder people second guess themselves and review their resume almost a dozen times looking for every comma that's out of place!
By no means am I a career guru. But, I have had plenty of experience working with professionals learning about what helps a candidate stand out in an application pool. The biggest take away is that language is key. Rarely will you get a chance to make your first impression in person, and so it is up to a carefully crafted cover letter, and reviewed resume, to get your foot in the door and your seat to that dream desk.
The resume is the heart of any application. This is the document that communicates to a reader what skills and experience you carry. Everyone will always have different resume advice, but themes I have found in conversations with professionals is that clarity, concession, and coherence is the key to a strong resume. Below are some tips that can help elevate your resume to a strong piece that ignites a conversation.
Using Strong Verbs: "Utilize" the sin of resume words! One of my Writing & Rhetoric Professors stresses the point that verbs drive the English language, and people love to read about people and places. These have become the tenets of my professional writing knowledge. Here is an example from my resume:
Here is a link to a great PDF: http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/files/2011/05/Action-Verbs-for-Resumes.pdf
Finding Relevant Experience: "What am I gonna do? I don't have any previous internship or job experience?!" I hear this one a lot, and I tell all my friends the same, "You may not have had an internship before, but what are you doing right now that is relevant?" As college students, we honestly have a surplus of time. Honestly, we are not ALWAYS that stressed. However, if you are that stressed, than you probably are on the right track. I'll explain why in a bit. Being part of clubs, sports, on-campus jobs, Greek life, etc. there are dozens of leadership positions that exists on our campuses that help cultivate your leadership skills. For example, being President of an animal shelter volunteer club means you clearly manage logistics, build relationships, manage accounts, etc. See what I mean? You often do things for fun that are giving you practical skills that could contribute to whatever company and team you intern with. Sit down and find what you do well. Once you have this down, start thinking about what you do, and don't say you "utilize" anything!
Make it Pop: For most people who have never written a resume, I notice that they end up getting an online template, or they use a basic one from their school's career office. This is fine, but you have to understand that your resume has to stand out in a sea of many. Adding a pop of color, I literally mean like on line, like honestly the most SUBTLE details, can make your resume feel fresh to someone who has gone through hundreds in one day. Using programs like Adobe Photoshop or InDesign offer a great way of working with both your font and aesthetics. A monogram never hurt anybody right?
White Space is Good Space: My last bit of advice is to let your resume breath. Do not feel like you have to get your whole life down on this 1 sheet of paper. It is both impossible and unnecessary, that is why cover letters exist. Your resume should look polished and precise. This means that having smaller margins is a good thing, and having enough space between sections is appreciated. You want your resume to look like a relaxed piece of work, instead of an investigation of who you are.
Cover letters are somewhat confusing, but I will try to explain it best I can. A good cover letter compliments your resume. It should add details and experiences that were not included on your resume, and it should invite the reader to refer back to your resume too. Despite what you may initially think, a cover letter should be brief, thoughtful, and memorable. Here is what I recommend for a cover letter.
Your First Line is Paramount: "Hi my name is...." if your cover letter starts with these 4 words, expect to be pushed aside. This is perhaps the worst way of starting off a cover letter! Why? Because your reader already knows this! A few other mistakes include "I go to X College", "I major in X" or "I am a X year." Once again, these are things your reader knows. Your first line is where you have to be direct and show that you are here to work hard, and work smart. A safe first line is, "I am writing to show my interest in X position." Short, sweet, and to the point.
Formatting: A good cover letter is seamless in style with your resume. This means that the font, margins, and spacing should be similar to each other. The top of your cover letter should often be copied directly from your resume.
End on a High Note: Before you end your resume make sure to thank the reader for their time! This may seem like a minuscule detail, but people really do forget to thank the person who gave them the time of day. I personally think that this shows how you are someone considerate and thoughtful, and not simply there for the company's name. Also make sure to include a line the invites the reader to contact you for work samples, more questions, etc. Including a line like this helps keep the conversation open, instead of done once the paper is put down.
Also, make sure you also have a great mentor who doesn't mind when you text her 3 times in a row asking for the best way of saying "I did this"! Whether it's your friend, professor, coach, etc. get as many eyes on your documents!