Your Résumé (not) To-Do List

We’re at the time of year where many students are polishing (or perhaps creating) their résumés for summer employment opportunities. In FYE, we get to see some great (and not-so-great) résumés from student leaders who support new students, so these tips I’m sharing with you are based on years of observation of what doesn’t work on a student résumé.

Disclaimer: My opinion is just one in a sea of opinions about résumés; it also comes with the caveat that you should heed the recommendations of the Career Services office for your college or department (especially if you are seeking to become gainfully employed in that field or discipline).

Extravagant paper

You never know who you’re offending with pink, speckled paper, and the print on dark colors can be difficult to read if the résumé is photocopied. Stick to white or cream résumé paper.

Graphics or pictures of any kind

Who doesn’t love a good cat pic or NFL logo? There is a time and a place for those things, but it should not include your résumé (plus, you may be violating copyright laws). Be remembered for the content of your package, not its wrapping paper.

Inconsistent formatting

A résumé is not the time to experiment with funky fonts, lightning bolts as bullet points, or zigzag margins. Each element of your résumé should look the same as all other elements; for example:

  • Bullet point margins should line up
  • Dates should be formatted identically throughout (9/14 or September 2014…not both)
  • Use of bolditalic or underlined words should be used consistently (e.g., put every job title in bold, underline all section headers)

More than two pages in length

Some people will tell you a résumé should only be one page; regardless, it should never be more than two pages. If you exceed two pages, you are either being too robust in your work history and details, or you are using 18pt font and 3in margins.

Using acronyms

Ohio State is full of acronyms (RPAC, CABS, RA) that the average non-Buckeye may not understand. If the acronym is common and you’ll use it more than once in the résumé, explain what it stands for in your first reference–e.g., Resident Advisor (RA); then, continue to refer to it by its acronym.

Inadequate description of responsibilities

Employers want to be able to determine employee/environment fit for a position, and they need to quickly ascertain which skills you have that are transferable to the job for which you are applying. Choose dynamic words and phrases to illustrate your accomplishments, and aim for 3-5 bullet points for each job or experience listed on your résumé. If you can’t come up with at least three bullet points, it may not be significant enough to include. Download a list of action verbs from Career Counseling and Support Services.

Overwhelming description of responsibilities

Too much content makes it difficult for an employer to discern relevant components of your experience. Again, you’re aiming for 3-5 bullet points per experience that (concisely) demonstrate transferrable skills.

Falsifying information

Lying is bad. Don’t do it.

Spelling and grammatical errors

Two of my favorites: people who say they worked in costumer service (which I guess is helping clowns get dressed?); and, the unfortunate soul who once said she was a lifeguard for the pubic pool. Proofread your résumé, and then ask a trusted friend to look at it as well.

Using a Microsoft Word template

The convenience is alluring, to be sure, but there is nothing about a Word template (that literally anyone with Word can use) that says you are an original, creative person who is more qualified than any other applicant. Create your own template that best represents your identify and experiences.

Additional tips for success

  • Email address – make it appropriate!
  • Objective statement – not necessary unless you’re posting your résumé on a job website.
  • Section headings (and their order) – education should go first (since you’re currently in college) and others depend on the position for which you’re applying (put the most relevant experience next).
  • Font selection and size – nothing too fancy, and it should be between 10pt and 12pt.
  • Sending electronic copies – save and send as a PDF when possible to avoid formatting issues on the receiving end.
  • Using job descriptions/expectations – save your job descriptions or ask your former supervisor(s) for it, then use it to build your résumé bullet points.
  • Envision your “ideal” résumé – pursue opportunities that get you there.

So You’re Thinking About Switching Your Major?

Did you begin your first year thinking you had the perfect major and career figured out? Did you take a random class that you ended up loving, or take a class you thought you would love and it ended up not really working out? Do not panic! We have all had at least one moment in college where we freeze, have a mini panic attack, and think, “what I am I doing with my life.” Whether it just lasts a minute or a semester, these moments are a great way to help you step back and ask yourself, “Am I happy with my major and the path my future is on?”

When I first stepped into SPHHRNG 2230: Introduction to Communication and Its Disorders, I thought, “Yes, this going to be amazing! I am going to be able to help so many kids, I cannot wait to be a speech pathologist!” Fast forward six weeks into the class and my thought process was not exactly the same. Though I had never had a specific class or experience that immediately turned me away from the field, I did have an extremely strong gut feeling that this path was just not meant for me.

In that same semester, I took PSYCH 1100: Introduction to Psychology for the sole purpose of receiving general education credit. However, as the class progressed I started realizing how much I was enjoying it. I noticed I was more excited to read my psychology textbook than my book for speech and hearing science. When I realized I wanted to switch my major to psychology, I did not go into their office and switch my major the next day. I finished out my speech and hearing science class and started to take some steps that helped me confirm that psychology was going to be the right major for me.

Here are four things that helped me with my decision to switch majors:

Talk to Someone

Whether it is your academic advisor, RA, Hall Director, parents, mentor, coach, etc., talk to someone about how you are feeling.  No one is going to blame you for questioning your options (that is what college is for). If you are genuinely unhappy in your major or classes, let someone know; let them what you do not like about the path you are currently on and where you would like to see yourself end up. There are people here to help you find out what you want to do and how to point you in the right direction to get back on track.

Use Your Resources

There are so many resources on campus that are here to help you decide on what is best for you! The Younkin Success Center offers career counseling that is personalized to your interests and gives individualized sessions. Additionally, every college on campus has some sort of career services outlet can help to students find out what they want to do with their life after college.

Set up a meeting with your academic advisor or with one in the major you are considering. They can tell you more about the major and everything you can do with it. Two awesome things about talking with academic advisors:

  • They can connect you with students who are currently in the major to get their perspective
  • They know so many more things you can do with the major that you may have never known existed

Research, Research, Research!

Look into all the areas in which you are interested. Find out what you can do with a degree in food science or anthropology. Be adventurous! Look up facts and articles about what is currently going on in the field and see if it is something you could see yourself doing one day. You will never know if it could be something your passionate about until you look!

Ask Yourself, Are YOU Happy?

Your major is going to set you up on a path that will direct the rest of your future. Are you going to be happy being an engineer, teacher, doctor, nutritionist, etc. for the next 25+ years? Is it going to fulfill your life and passions, besides just filling your bank account?  It is a decision that is entirely yours to make! Do not let family, friends, or society pressure you into a decision they think is best. You are the most important part of this equation. If you are happy and passionate about what you want to do, then pursue it!

Through talking to LOTS of people, researching different careers I could do with psychology, utilizing my academic advisor and the psychology department, and some self-reflection, I knew that switching my major was the thing to do.  All of the things I did reassured me that majoring in psychology was going to put in the right direction even if I did not have every piece of the puzzle figured out just yet.

Breathe. Trust me, more people end up switching their major then what you realize. It is completely 100% okay to do. If you think switching your major is the thing to do, then do it! College is the time to explore your options and figure out what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.