Graduation Guide: Resumes preparation for future, not reflection of past

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The unemployment rate in America is still hovering around 7.6 percent, according to March 2013 statistics. For those graduating in the upcoming weeks, this may be a slightly unsettling number looming over their entrance into the real world, especially for those still on the hunt for a full-time job. To ensure that graduation is followed by a job offer, students can polish their resumes before walking across the stage.

“It’s important to have a strong resume in order to make a great first impression,” said Katy Zapletal, K-State admissions representative. “You have to be able to come across on paper as you would in person.”

While most students have a general idea about what is included in a resume, there are not many guidelines about how to make a resume stand out. Kerri Day Keller, director of career and employment services, offered some helpful advice on the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of successful resume-building and the importance of having a good resume.

“This may seem a little bit odd, but resumes are actually about your future. They’re not really about your past,” Keller said. “You are conveying what you’ve done, but you’re trying to convey it in a way that moves you toward where you’re going.”

It is important to always put yourself in the shoes of whoever will be reading your resume to better connect yourself specifically to the position that you’re applying for, Keller said.

“I think students need to be thinking about why there are certain organizations that they’re interested in applying for,” Keller said. “Why this particular job? What’s the connection? Is it because you already have experience in the area and this is the next natural step? You need to show some sort of connection.”

It is important for job-seeking students to keep in mind that a resume is not a confessional, Keller said. She said that generally, just-graduated individuals should keep their resume to approximately one page worth of extremely relevant material, rather than a complete collection of every single club and activity they have ever been a member of.

“I think this is really hard for students because you feel like you have to put everything on that sheet of paper, and you really have to be pretty selective,” Keller said. “We have so many employers who emphasize to us that they don’t necessarily want a whole laundry list of every single organization you’ve ever been in. But, if you list one or two organizations and then talk about how you really made a difference in them, that’s really what they want to know.”

Another element of emphasis on Keller’s resume checklist is finding the perfect balance of honesty and creativity by accurately portraying what your past work experience has been. Confidence and self-promotion are key in this step.

Andrew Waldman, senior in industrial engineering, said that he thinks his personal utilization of the practice of effective resume building has helped him land positions in fairly competitive internships two summers in a row.

“One piece of advice I have for other students is to remember that your resume is the one time it’s socially acceptable to brag on yourself,” Waldman said. “You don’t want to sound arrogant, but don’t downplay your involvement. Make yourself stand out, because sometimes that’s the only chance you get with a potential employer.”

Regarding the most common mistakes that can immediately remove a hopeful from the running for a particular job, Keller said that typos, such as grammatical errors and misspellings, are some of the easiest mistakes to miss, yet also the most detrimental.

“I’ve seen so many embarrassing and just poorly written resumes that have typos in them that an employer is unfortunately going to make some judgments about in terms of your attention to detail,” she said. “They’re going to wonder if what you’ve already shown them is a reflection of how you would perform on the job as well.”

Other important considerations in resume building include seeking the advice of an established professional within your industry to ensure the relevance of your information, as well as utilizing on-campus resources, such as “Walk-In Wednesdays” through Career and Employment Services.

As for the best piece of advice on writing a resume, Keller said “I think job seekers really need to convey who they are in some way. You need to be able to share that unwritten sense of who you are as a person and who you are becoming.”

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