Writing Your First Resume

By Francine Fabricant

Are you preparing to search for an internship or your first job? Writing a resume before you have relevant work experience can be difficult, especially if you’re not be sure what to include. However, it is possible to create a great resume that is filled with experiences you gained as a student.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Check Job and Internship Listings First

Not sure how to get started writing your resume? I teach students to “write their resume backwards.” Choose a job or internship listing that interests you, and write down all the experiences and activities you think qualify you for that opportunity. This will lead to a targeted resume, designed specifically for the positions that interest you most!

“But I don’t have any experience!”

The biggest challenge I hear from students about resume writing is that they don’t feel they have any valuable experience. You might be surprised to learn that employers are hoping to hear about your student experiences.  A student resume should include internships or relevant work experiences – if you’ve had them – but also courses and course projects, student activities and leadership roles, part-time jobs, and volunteer roles. These show your interests and also provide evidence of transferable skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and reliability.

Use A Sample Resume

Sample resumes can serve as a guide, providing inspiration for resume sections and formatting. I suggest writing the resume without a resume template, because they embed formatting that can be difficult to remove. We have a number of case study samples in Chapter 8: Tools of Creating Career Success that include a target position selected for each case study student. An example of this can be found online, in the sample online career portfolio.

For examples that highlight student experiences in a resume, check out this sample chronological resume and more from Quintessential Careers. Your career center may also offer samples that reflect the specific courses and majors at your school.

Choosing Resume Fonts and Sections

While there are some design elements that are more common for resumes, one of the best ways to discover the fonts, layout, and design options that suit your industry and career goals is to review other people’s resumes.  I found a large number of very high-quality, well-designed free resume samples shared online by Blue Sky Resumes, a resume-writing business. These are written for experienced candidates, so they also can offer insights into what your resume might include in the future.

Ask for Feedback

After you have written your resume, ask someone to look it over for content, grammar, and spelling.  Consider sharing it with a career counselor, a mentor, a professor, or your networking contacts.  Show your connections your target job listing, and possibly some of the sample resumes you used when you prepared your resume. With these tools, they can reflect on how well your resume meets the employer’s “wish list” of requirements.  This will make it easier for others to offer feedback that is directly related to your career goals.

Once you’ve prepared your first resume, you will feel more comfortable getting started with career and recruiting activities offered at your school. Check the calendar at your career center.  They may have activities, such as a career and internship fair, at the start of the next semester! 

My First Internship

By Jennifer Miller

I am currently teaching an internship class where I require the students to blog about their experiences.  I have been doing this for a couple of semesters now and this semester I have decided to blog along with them to give them examples about what they can blog about.  My blog posts allow me to communicate with my students about some of my experiences which I might not have time for in class or may not feel is appropriate for the class.

Below was my first post to the class.

Is this your first internship?  If not, write about your other internship experiences for your first blog post.  If it is then what are you expecting to gain from this experience?  My first internship was at the Waterman Conservation Education Center  (http://www.watermancenter.org/)  in Apalachin, NY in the late 1980’s.  I was an Environmental Studies and Economics double major at SUNY Binghamton.  I found what I was studying to be rather dismal and depressing; so I found myself a credit internship at a Nature Center.  It was a great experience and I learned a lot.  I remember that there was a class that I had to go to and I had to write and present a paper.  There was a requirement of how many hours I had to intern.

After this internship I was still interested in environmental education as a possible career…so I did another internship.  This one was full-time and I lived at the nature center.  I didn’t need the credit so I took a semester off from school to do it.  It was at the NYS DEC’s Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne, NY.  I received a $50 a week stipend and a place to live.  At those two internships I worked with some of the nicest people l have ever met.

Those two internships led to a part-time job at another nature center in Johnson City, NY.  Eventually, I decided that this wasn’t the right direction for me partly because my major was so policy focused and I still didn’t feel like I was really prepared.  Also, being from the Bronx, I didn’t see myself living in the remote types of places where many of the jobs were located.

My love of nature and the environment are still important in my life even though its not my career.  I regularly go hiking and for several years I served on the FIT’s Faculty Senate’s Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee.  Internships can teach you a lot about what’s important to you even if you decide to pursue a different career.

Discover Your Personal Brand

By Francine Fabricant

McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and White Castle are brands, and, even though they all serve burgers and fries, most people would not mistake one for another.  As consumers, we understand how they differ.  We’ve learned about them from their advertisements, from our personal experiences, and from their marketing choices.  Somehow, we get a different feeling from each of them or we like one over another.

Personal branding is a lot like branding in the business world. The big difference is that personal branding often happens to you, rather than by you. Why do people like you?  What skills and talents do you offer?  Why do people rely on you? For instance, are you a good listener, are you good with technology, or do you know how to take photographs?  These are the types of talents that may attract others.  Whatever you’re known for – that’s your personal brand.  Personal branding is the process of becoming more aware of your reputation, then shaping and promoting it intentionally.

Here are a few tips for building your assets into a recognizable personal brand.

How do others see you?

The first step to building your brand is identifying some of the assets you could most easily brand, because they are already part of your reputation.  To find out the best qualities you offer, ask the people you know why they would go to you for help, support, or advice.  Ask them what special personal qualities, talents, or skills they think you can offer, and why they think you would be the right person to offer that assistance.  Ask your friends, family members, a former boss, or your roommate. If they can’t think of something, ask them what they think is your reputation.  Using different words or phrases, such as “go-to person” or “reputation,” can lead to new insights.

Are these the qualities you want to brand for yourself?

Now that you’ve learned how others view you, decide if these qualities are important to you and if you’d like to be known for them.  With this self-exploration, you’re deciding how you want to shape your personal brand.

Are these assets being honed, utilized, and enhanced through experiences?

After you decide which qualities are the ones you value, examine your activities, courses, and experiences to see where you use or build these strengths.  If you aren’t developing them, consider adding new activities that make them part of your current experience. For instance, if you’re the one your friends go to for advice on their dating relationships, consider becoming a peer educator, taking a psychology class, or writing a column about dating in the school paper.

Now, share your brand!

Look at your social media, and see if the message about your greatest assets comes through.  Examine your resume.  Look at your course list.  As you go through all of the information and documents you have for yourself, look to see if these qualities you value come through. If not, consider if you need more experiences that back up these strengths, or if you just need to highlight them more.

As you better understand your personal brand, and choose activities that support it, you will find that your message starts to shine through, and soon you’ll have even more people seeking you out for the assets you want to use most!

Tell us how you are building your personal brand.

The ABC’s of Interning

by Jennifer Miller and Francine Fabricant

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about interning.  We’ll also cover such topics as finding an internship, starting your internship off on the right foot, making the most of your internship, and how to end your internship.

First, let’s explore what interning is and why it is so important.  You’ve probably been told numerous times that you need to intern.  In the Explore chapter of Creating Career Success we discuss real-world career exploration, learning by doing, and the benefits of experiential learning.  An internship is the most common way to “learn by doing,” and similar programs may be referred to as externships or cooperative programs.  There are also many other ways to learn on the job and from people in the workforce, such as job shadowing, site visits, employer visits to campus, part-time work, volunteer work, temporary work, and informational interviewing. For now, let’s talk about internships.

An internship is an experience at a company that has a learning component where you—the intern—get hands-on experience.  Ideally, internships are for those who lack professional experience, but are eager to explore that field while building skills, experience, and references.

So why is it important to intern?  Perhaps most importantly, it will help test your beliefs about your career choice.  You may think you want to be an accountant because you are good at math, and your internship is a chance to get to know the work environment, people, and culture.  Interning also helps you to develop critical skills, including specific job-related skills as well as how to manage yourself in the workplace.  Finally, you may meet people at an internship who can serve as mentors, advisors, and advocates. Developing workplace contacts is essential for building your network and obtaining meaningful professional references.

Before we finish, let’s go ahead and address some of the many myths floating around about internships:

  • My internship will be interesting and challenging all the time.  No internship— or job for that matter—is going to be both interesting and challenging 100% of the time.  Employers sometimes give interns tedious projects that may seem like grunt work but that allow you to become familiar with procedures, accounts and other important aspects of the work.  Proving yourself with seemingly unimportant projects may lead to your supervisor trusting you with bigger and more important work.  But on the other hand if all you are doing is making coffee, picking up your supervisor’s dry cleaning and making her doctor appointments, you may need to speak to your supervisor or human resources about the purpose and goals of your internship.
  • If I don’t intern, I can’t get a job.  For the most part you don’t have to intern to get a job, but in today’s super competitive job market you need to make sure you are as marketable as possible—and interning is a great way to do that.  In some fields, such as publishing, it is very difficult to get a job without doing an internship first.
  • I will get hired after completing my internship.  Some students mistakenly expect that they will be hired after completing an internship.  Maybe you know someone who received an offer this way, or you’ve seen a company advertise that a position can lead to an offer.  While many companies do look to former interns when hiring, there are no guarantees of future employment.  The main purpose of the internship is to explore a field and develop skills.

Be on the lookout for our next blog about internships where we will cover how to find a summer internship. The skills, experience, and connections you can build through internships are invaluable in your career development. Are you interning now or planning to look for an internship?  What do you hope to gain through your internship experience?

Students – Do You Feel Like Your Job is Hurting Your Career?

By Francine Fabricant

Do you have a part-time or full-time job that bears little resemblance to the career you really want?  If you feel like your work-study balancing act is making it hard to build skills, experience, and references that will help you build your career after you graduate, there is a lot you can do on the job and in the classroom to prepare for your future.

Here are some tips that can help you turn your job into a career-building experience.

Identify skills you want to develop.  Decide which skills you are motivated to build and then  look for ways you could build them in your current experiences. For instance, if you work in a retail store and have an interest in a helping career, like social work or education, explore opportunities to become more involved in customer service, handling complaints, or training others.  These person-to-person interactions will show evidence of helping skills such as listening, understanding, teaching, and communicating.

Build mentor relationships at work.  Mentors in any field can offer guidance, advice, advocacy, and help you increase your network.  Consider the skills of potential mentors and what you can learn.  Then, seek out ways to add value to your mentors, offering your assistance and expressing interest in what they do.  For example, if you work in food service, a supervisor who serves in management will likely have recognized skills in such areas as leadership, motivation, business, data collection, and organization.  These are highly transferable skills, and a mentor can help you look for ways to build skills that may be outside your typical responsibilities and transferable to a range of career fields.

Take your job seriously.  All work environments want self-starters who work hard and care.  To your employer, this is a business, and your contribution matters!   Taking the initiative to ask for new projects, working harder than your job requires, showing up on time, and being courteous to colleagues, are just some of the ways you can demonstrate your professionalism.  This will impact your references, and help you gain more responsibilities on the job.

Are you balancing work and school as you build your career? Take a look at what other students are doing by checking out this infographic on The Work-Study Balancing Act and tell us more about the challenges you are facing or how you are making your balancing act work for you!

Job Hunting During the Holidays

by Jennifer Miller

A question I get asked frequently around this time of year by job hunters is: “Should I even bother looking now or should I wait until the New Year?”

The answer I give is:  “Yes, you can start or continue your job search during the holiday season!”

Fiscal Year End
You may think that since the calendar year is about to end that the company’s fiscal year is ending as well.  There are two reasons why you should not be concern about this issue.

  1. Many companies have a fiscal year that does not coincide with the calendar year.  So, the fact that the calendar year is about to end may not matter to the employer.
  2. When a company needs to fill a position, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, they will fill key positions as needed.

It’s Party Time, Not Decision Making Time
Another concern is that during the holidays, companies may be more laid back than usual.  Many companies will have a party for employees, and some departments may have a party as well.  With all that fun, is anyone really selecting candidates and interviewing?  Yes. Although people may appear less focused on work during the holiday season, make no mistake, important decisions are still being made.

Vacation = Decision Makers Are Not Available
Another concern often voiced is that if an interview goes well, will the people needed to sign off on a job offer be available?  While this is a great time of year for many to take a vacation, there will always be someone left to mind the fort.  Also, in this digital age even if someone is out of the office they can be contacted if needed.  However, one exception is that some companies close between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

End of the Year Job Search Projects
Throughout December, and especially during the last two weeks, you may find that reaching employers is more difficult.  You can prepare for your job search during this quieter time by giving yourself projects that do not require an immediate response from employers. Conducting online and library research, revising your resume, creating or updating your social media presence, writing cover letters, sending out resumes and cover letters, and preparing for interviews are all tasks that can be accomplished during this time.

How will you make the most of the last weeks of this year?

Building Connections for Your Career During the Holiday Season

Building Connections for Your Career During the Holiday Season

By Francine Fabricant

With the holiday season here, there are more opportunities to meet up with friends and family, and this can be great for your developing career.  Whether you’re looking for a job after graduation, an internship for next summer, or have some big questions about your career direction, people are an invaluable resource.  Set your goals on getting to know the people around you, and taking steps to expand your network.  Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Ask questions that help you learn about others.  Getting a conversation started can be tough, and asking questions is a good way to get someone to start talking.  What questions will get results?  The best questions are the ones that really interest you and that the person to whom you are speaking can answer.  For instance, if you see your Aunt Kaye over break, and she is a businesswoman whom you respect, you may want to seek out her advice.  Asking Aunt Kaye what you should do with your degree in communications certainly involves a question that interests you, but she may not know about careers in communications or which resources to recommend. Instead, try asking her questions that help you learn about her and her network. You might ask how the media she uses in business has changed and what sources she goes to for news, or if she knows anyone who works in communications, PR, or marketing at her firm or elsewhere. All of this information can help you make connections between her experiences, her network, and your career interests.
  2. If you learn something helpful, explain how you will use that information. If you have dinner with a friend’s family and learn that your friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s brother is a chef, and you want to become a chef, consider asking if you could speak with him about his career to learn more.  Despite the distant connection, you can bridge this gap by asking for an introduction.  Then, follow your request with a simple explanation of how that can be useful to you, such as, “I’d like to learn more about how he found his first job, and what advice he could give to me.”  This honesty makes the request sincere and easier to relay.  Just imagine the conversation that could follow between your friend’s brother and his girlfriend … “I went to dinner with my brother and his friend, James, and it came up that James wants to become a chef.  Do you think your brother would talk to him about how he found his first job and share some advice?”
  3. Share details that show your skills, professionalism, and motivation.  If you know what career information you need, you can be specific about your needs and your relevant skills, but if you don’t know what your career goals are, you may be unclear about how to promote your assets.  Imagine yourself at a holiday party where you learn that someone is a physical therapist who works with athletes.  If you like sports, but never thought about this career path or taken any related courses, you may feel like you have no relevant assets to highlight.  However, talking about your genuine interest, your willingness to work hard, and your eagerness to research requirements for jobs in the field are all examples of your professionalism.  Add to these the science and math classes you’ve taken or your experience from the sports you’ve played and you’ll be sharing the groundwork you’ve paved for the foundation of a new career. This can help people think of next steps or recommend you to their network.
  4. Respect your environment.  Sometimes, a detailed conversation about your career isn’t appropriate or possible. You might be at a crowded party where it’s difficult to hear, other people might interrupt the conversation, or the person you want to speak with may not seem interested.  If necessary, move to another topic.  However, if you feel that the person is receptive, consider asking if you could follow up to speak further or set up an informational interview.  Don’t follow up by sending your resume.  Instead, send an e-mail to thank the person for offering to speak and work towards setting up a convenient time for a meeting, either on the phone or in person.

Networking over the holiday season can be fun and lead to new relationships and insights for your career.  Conversations that reflect your interest in others can help you turn your holidays into a time of learning and expanding possibilities.

What relationships have you built through social events that have helped your career?