The Style of Substance

July 3, 2013

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Last week we gave you a peek at some pretty cool resumes that all garnered attention, jobs, and in some cases even went viral. But as the old saying goes, it’s often substance over style that will carry the day – and your career. Having style points can definitely get you in the door, but having the substance to back it up is what’s going to keep you there.

Which brings us to this week. As a recent grad, you may or may not have the experience employers are looking for in a candidate just yet. But what you DO have are a set of skills that make you qualified for the job. You just need the opportunity to prove this. Here are three ways you can put together a resume that makes your case.

resume objectiveAvoid Lifestyles of the Young and Aimless

The first thing you should do as a recent grad is have a targeted objective. It should be stated formally on your resume and it should clearly say what you’re looking to accomplish. Fluff and generalizations are common mistakes made by new graduates.

  • Bad example: Seeking a challenging position with a progressive company that will offer an opportunity to showcase my unique qualifications with a chance for growth and advancement.
  • Good example: Honors graduate of (insert college and program) seeking a position in training and development. Offer hands-on experience in classroom teaching, corporate training and (your field) research.

In other words, be specific. You’re not just a free spirit or showing the Incredible Lightness of Being (You). You’re a woman or man on a mission. Make sure that message comes across.

performance rating

Somebody Rockin’ Knockin’ The Books

If you’re a bit light on the experience side, listing your academic honors is a great way to show your potential. According to the Millennial survey, 69% of managers think relevant courses are either important or very important when reviewing candidates, while 65% say a reference from a professor has value.

Being on the dean’s list, distinctions such as summa cum laude, or scholarships and other awards should all be outlined. Also, as a general rule of thumb, list your GPA if it’s at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Or better yet, list your major’s GPA if it’s more relevant for the job you’re going for. Don’t worry, all of this speaks to having a good work ethic, not necessarily a lack of a social life.

That being said…

volunteering credits on your resumeThe World Out There

…it’s important to also show activities you’ve done outside of schoolwork. Hiring managers want to know what kind of employee you’d be if they hired you. Maria Stein, director of Career Services at Northeastern University in Boston, said, “Without experience, students need to highlight capstone projects or any other evidence of applied learning.”  Translation: show you’ve done more than just studied. That same Millennial survey also showed that 50% of managers say leadership positions in on-campus organizations will stand out on resumes.

Also, list any internships or volunteer work you’ve done in the community. It speaks to being well-rounded and involved. And if you do list an internship, detail a specific project you did that shows how it relates to the job you’re applying for. It will stand out way more than anything else.

Recent graduates often make the mistake of putting together very generic resumes as a way to make up for a lack of experience. But what you may or may not realize is that it’s not experience you lack, per se, it’s a career. You are just starting out on your journey after all. You’ve had experiences all throughout your college life that have given you skills that can be directly transferrable to the job market. The trick is simply highlighting them in a way that works for you, which ultimately serves to show that your substance is in fact your style.

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