As I sat at my desk helping a student with their resume, I noticed tears starting to form in their eyes. I wish I could say these tears formed because the student was blown away by the resume I was creating. Similar to when an artist creates a masterpiece or when someone watches Avengers: End Game for the first time. Unfortunately, these tears were not the product of some great masterpiece, but the result of stress and frustration. The student said they had no idea how much better their resume could be and started to panic because they applied to their dream job with the previous version of their resume. Why a student would have a career service professional look at their resume after they applied to their dream job, I will never know. Regardless, the student feared their chances were hindered because they applied with their original resume, thinking that it was the best version of itself, until they saw how it could be improved. Long story short, we were able to login to their online application and replace the original resume with the new resume. To end this story on a positive note, the student got the job.
Now, I am happy to say that the student did not actually cry in my office, but stress and frustration definitely kicked in. That situation was a little bit more on the extreme side, but we have students come in the office to have their resume looked at all the time. When students come in, some think their resume is trash, some think it is decent, and some are happy with it. Never the less, after a member of the office applies some edits to the format and content, students leave much more impressed with their resume compared to the one they came in with. This begs the question; Do college students not know what an impressive resume looks like? Or do they lack the skills needed to make their resume the best version of itself on the software program they are using? I think the former has a little bit to do with it, along with some other reasons; however, I think the later makes up the majority. On one hand, most students know when something looks good and when something does not. On the other hand, that most students do not always know how to make something look good.
I bring this up because of all the templates, workshops, and classroom presentations career services provide, there are still students bringing in and using resumes that are less than ideal. This is significant because the role that a resume has on getting an internship or starting ones career can be as insignificant as a fish swimming at the bottom of the ocean or as significant as the air we breathe. For those times that resumes play a significant role, the smallest characteristics can be the difference between an interview and a missed opportunity. Today, a resume is almost like a Tinder profile, being swiped left or right on at a rapid rate due to minor differences. This is especially true as more companies use methods to filter resumes, whether that is application tracking systems or third-party staffing agencies, making the job and internship process more competitive every year. As a result, it is important to try to figure out why are students still struggling with something so basic like creating a resume and what can we do to address this, if anything.
This brings me back to the two questions that I proposed earlier. As I mentioned, most students know what looks good and when it comes to resumes, there are plenty of great templates and examples. Therefore, it is relatively easy to find out what an impressive resume looks like. What appears to not be as easy is the ability to replicate that resume with different experiences, accomplishments, and skills. Part of this can be students choosing templates that do not play to their specific needs/style. Similar to clothing, there are styles that play to people’s body types just as there are resume templates that play to people’s experiences and field. If done correctly, this can make for a very positive outcome. Although, just as when styles do not play to someone's body type, the outcome can be very negative. So, why do students not make modifications to their resumes when they see it does not look good, just as people change clothes for the same reason? I believe one of the main reasons behind this is because they do not know how to modify the format to make it look better.
To examine this further, I looked into how our office talks about resumes and came up with a potential solution to address this problem. When we go into classrooms and talk about resumes we go over an example resume, indicating ways to format different experiences, skills, and accomplishments relevant to the job. This approach does a nice job at showing students what an impressive resume can look like. The issue is, since the examples are already made we are not addressing the problem of students lacking the knowledge needed to know how to make an impressive resume. Therefore, the focus of the presentation needs to shift to making an example resume from scratch with the students, instead of just talking about an example resume already made. Going from a “this is what an impressive resume looks like” approach to a “this is how you make an impressive resume” approach will allow students to see how we maximize the software program we use (Microsoft Word) to create an impressive resume. As a result, they will gain the knowledge needed to know how to format different experiences, skills, and accomplishments relevant to the job.
In conclusion, I wrote this blog to highlight an example of a basic problem that students still struggle with. As we continue to develop and implement innovative ideas to support the career readiness of our students, sometimes the simplest problems get left behind and unsolved. For that reason, it is important to apply those same innovative ideas to the basics of what we do as career service professionals. This means looking at the most basic resources (i.e. resumes), see why are students still struggling with something so simple, and figure out what we can do. I know there are more than just the reasons mentioned above that lead to students struggling with resumes and the potential solution I discussed is just one of many. By finding solutions to some of these simple problems, our improved resources will be able to reach more students, while freeing up our time to take on tasks that are more significant.