Water skiing is more important than my GPA.
Okay, now that my mother is sobbing on the floor while my dad dances victoriously around the room, allow me to explain.
My resume is pretty standard. Other than its stellar layout — a template designed by a tech-savvy engineer — it’s fairly boring unless you’re really interested in the life of Erika Mayer. It covers academics, work experience and awards. Squeezed in at the bottom in the few extra lines left are a couple of activities I do at the University: the water ski team, the Daily, Campus Symphony Orchestra and Model UN. I added them because I think it shows how I’m involved in activities outside of my classes and that I’m able to manage my time effectively.
Little did I know that one day these few lines would land me a job.
I’m working for a Member of Parliament in London this summer, and I recently found out just how lucky I am to have this job. My MP and I have been talking about American resumes (or CVs, as he calls them). Every year, his office takes a couple of American interns, and he says it’s really hard to pick which ones would work best. They are all well-qualified, and smart students, but on paper they all look the same — flat characters with no personality. He told me that the over-competitive nature of the American job market encourages students to cram their resumes with qualifications instead of interests.
“But,” you might protest, “I only have one piece of paper on which to explain how good I would be for the job!” I said the same thing, quoting something witty about British A4 paper versus the American 8.5×11. Besides, I reasoned, I do have activities on my resume.
Which, it turns out, is exactly why I was hired. Only one of my activities — Model UN – could actually benefit my future career. It’s pretty obvious that I’m not going to be a professional water skier, as awesome as it would be to have access to any lake in the world. I’m not going to be a solo violist in this lifetime. And as much as I like writing for the Daily, it’s just something I do for fun.
But including these on my resume shows that I’m a well-rounded person with a variety of interests — and it shows I like to have fun. To a potential employer, these are really important. After all, they do have to work with you.
You’re probably pretty well-rounded too as the University usually doesn’t let in single-minded people. Bookish English majors store old pompons in the basement and fraternity brothers have trumpets in the corners of their rooms. With so many student groups on campus, it would be practically impossible to not be involved in something. The problem is that we aren’t putting these things on our resume.
My resume could be three pages long if I included all my hobbies, activities, etc. But we all know no one reads past the first page. So, like everyone else, I cut down on the irrelevant information. A snip here and a cut there and suddenly this piece of paper that is supposed to tell potential employers who I am says nothing about me.
It’s time to give your resume a makeover. Your life is more than school, I promise, and employers want to know that. Take Wilburt Elementary School’s Third Grade Hall Monitor off your list and add some interests. Your future may depend on it.
As for me, I’m going to make sure I keep my resume personal. I’m not going to turn it into a personal ad, but I’ll be certain that it reflects who I really am. From now on, that one sheet of paper — be it British A4 or 8.5×11 — is going to say, “Hi I’m Erika Mayer. I’m intelligent and qualified — and I can water ski like nobody’s business. Please hire me.”
Erika Mayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.