Hello! My name is Lorena and I am the Operations Associate here at Testive. I recently got the opportunity to assist our sales team with recruiting our summer interns. After reviewing a number of resumes and conducting various interviews with college students, I began to reflect on my own experience as a college student. I remember particularly how stressful the process of creating my first resume during my freshman year was.
During my senior year at UMass Amherst, I worked at the School of Management’s career center. I typically only saw sophomores, juniors, and seniors come in for professional development help. Where were all the freshmen at? Then it occurred to me that creating a resume wasn’t even on most freshmen’s radar. And it should be!
I reached out to Kim Figueroa, Director of Internships at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, to get her thoughts on why having a resume as a freshman in college matters.
Why does having a resume as a freshman in college matter?
It matters because there may be opportunities that might require a resume. For example, a student may want to apply for an on campus experience, such as becoming a TA their second semester, looking for roles in residents life or looking for more administrative kinds of positions. Another reason is that it gives you a feeling of confidence when you have worked on your resume in such a way that it articulates what you have contributed in your work experiences. It is important that students understand that there is a way to write resumes so that the accomplishments really pops on the page. Also, volunteering, applying for internships or study abroad, are all experiences that may require an application and a resume.
As a freshman, you don’t have much experience in the workforce. What would you say can supplement that experience part of your resume?
A lot of students do have experience-- it might not be in a particular industry that they are interested in. Many first year students come out of high school with jobs, such as camp counselor, positions in fast food environments, retail, or even working in family businesses. It is important that students think about what they have done in high school, for example: what kinds of activities were they involved in? What kind of leadership experiences are they leveraging? They can also write if they have done any kind of traveling. That can go under an interest area. If their travel was significant then that could go under it's own section depending on how deep it is. So there are a number of things first year students can write about. If you have a particular passion for something and if you are becoming very well versed in a particular subject area--you could even write about that on your resume.
Some students are writing blogs. So if there is a particular interest that has led you to want to write a blog or have a website that showcases your expertise that can also be something. I think we tend to limit experiences and think of something we got paid for or something that was in a formal work environment so students need to think more broadly.
What would you say are the biggest mistakes first year students make with their resumes?
They tend to just make a list of all of their high school achievements more like it's their application. They don’t really think about some of those experiences and what really highlights a particular set of skills. They are not thinking about their resumes as a marketing document that needs to speak to a job or internship description. When they begin to understand that, they start to weed out things that don’t support the things they are trying to articulate. Earlier students also tend to just write their job description, for example “provided customer service or entered data into excel.” They are not familiar with descriptive language that would really make their resume bullets pop with accomplishments or contributions.
Should freshman consider internships their first year if they’re available?
Yes! There is no question that it is much more difficult for first year students to find internships so they need to think outside of the box. The reason why it’s more difficult it’s because many employers are using internship programs to recruit students into full-time positions. Typically, they are looking at juniors. Now, there are more and more companies that are broadening out and engaging sophomores in internships with an eye towards potentially recruiting them into full-time roles. So that is the challenge for first year students.
So a couple of things I encourage first year students to look into are: startup environments and to do research on companies that might be more local to where they live. One organization that may be really helpful is The Chamber of Commerce-- it sometimes offers internships and it also gives you the opportunity to learn about its affiliated companies, which could be potential places that offer internships.
I also encourage younger students to consider non-profits, such as Red Cross or The American Heart Association. Some of these organizations may have their informalized internship programs, but others may not. Even calling if there is not something posted can prompt an employer to consider what an intern might be able to do for the organization especially if the student is savvy and has done its research and knows that it can offer value to the company.
Other great resources are your family and friends-- your network. In addition to that, students should also get involved with student organization and talk to upperclassmen because they too are part of your network.
What types of extracurricular activities should freshman look into that will help their resume?
I think any extracurricular activity where there is an opportunity for the student to get engaged and to take on a leadership role. I would not prescribe any specific activity. They should follow an interest because if they are interested in something then they are going to want to be more involved. For example, if you are a Marketing major you could join the marketing club. There is also that chance that you can be in that leadership role more quickly.
One of the places where there could be real value in networking externally is to work with alumni services. For example, caller jobs where students reach out to alums and solicit for donations. It can be kind of nerve wracking, but you are selling, you are interacting with alums and parents, you are representing the university, and you are interacting with alumni development professionals, which is a terrific kind of opportunity.
If students are interested in what’s going on on campus, getting involved in campus activity planning, where they can be on a team can have a really big impact by a way of developing activities and what not. Again, you are interacting with college professionals.
Also, if there is a Toastmaster club on campus, where you can develop your public speaking skills, I highly recommend you join it. It can be scary at first, but it will be rewarding and worthwhile. I think you go to college to broaden your horizons and build your skills and develop networking, so pushing yourself beyond your comfort zones, following an interest, and seeing what sticks is what your first year is really all about.
What advice can you give freshman who may be afraid or aren’t sure how to approach their career center for help?
Get over it! They need to know that career services is not just for juniors and seniors and that career professionals are eager to meet you early on because the more we know about you the better we can help you. We want to understand why you are here. What you might be thinking about in terms of a major. Do you want to explore what career outcomes might be based on a different major? We are in the business of supporting your goals. So we really want to get to know you and figure out what the next step might be. Everybody is different and that is OK.
Student should also check to see if their career services offers peer mentors. Working with a peer mentor initially could be easier. If they have an RA or know any upperclassmen they could talk to them about their experiences with the career center and ask that person what their recommendations might be. We understand that you just arrived to college. You’re trying to get the lay of the land, trying to see where you fit in. There is a lot of stuff going on and the idea of “I have to think about my career at this point?” is so far for some first year students.
Students need to understand that career services is there for all students and that there are really good benefits to going in and meeting with someone and just starting the conversation.
Are there any online resources (or books) you recommend to help students create their resume?
For general college success, I love Cal Newport’s “How to Become a Straight A Student: The Unconventional Strategies real College Students Use to Score high While Studying Less” and his “How to Win at College”
For resumes, I would suggest checking out what the career center resources are. Do they provide examples of resumes? Do they provide a guide? A google search on “freshman resume” brings up a number of links to different college career service websites…..lots of examples students can look at. But – honestly, check out what your school career center suggests.
In terms of books – here is one that would be good: Stand Out! A Resume Guide for College Students. Another great book for Liberal Arts majors is You Majored in What? Mapping your Path from Chaos to Career.
I WOULD highly recommend this for interview skills: Boost Your Interview IQ!
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on a resume that left a notable impression on you?
Yesterday I had a student who was top of the chart amazing-- the bullets in his resume really articulated his work experience and accomplishments. This is also a first year student who had an internship prior to coming to UMass. Seeing an internship prior to college is always an eyebrow raiser for me. During high school he had been part of DECA, which is a an international association of high school and college students that prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in various business areas. Since day one at UMass he had been trying to get the DECA Collegiate division established on campus.
Something else that impresses me in resumes is when I see students who are bilingual or trilingual.
Do you have any other advice for the future college freshman?
Yes! If you do your research on colleges-- things you need to be asking questions about (aside from how do I get in?) are: what’s going on in career services? What kind of access do you have to alum? Are there people designated to specific disciplines? Are there any career fairs? Are there opportunities to go on trips and visit employers? Don’t rely on just rankings and numbers or information that you see in publications.
Freshmen need to remember that a resume is a never ending document that that they will need to continually update throughout their college and professional careers. The sooner they have this document outlining their experiences and accomplishments, the better prepared they will be for when that job or internship opportunity presents itself. It’s never too early to impress an employer.