Resume tips for college students

Jordyn Kristine Shawhan is a senior at Bradley University. She is a management and leadership major with a creative writing minor. Jordyn enjoys literature, art, journalism, and conducting research either on assigned or random topics. She hopes to enter a career that involves some sort of research

It is expected that sophomores, juniors, and seniors should be on the hunt for internships. Some professors even recommend having two internships nowadays instead of one. This could be your first time applying for anything, if you are like me and landed a job with family and filled out your first application when applying for college. The task seems daunting as you stare at your blank Word document, and you may suffer from writer’s block. You may even be crippled by the fear of sending out an imperfect resume or cover letter to your dream employer. This is all normal. So normal, in fact, that there are tools out there to help you get writing and start applying.

I did not start seriously looking for an internship until my junior year. I ended up applying for near 50 positions and was only interviewed for four. Through my own experience and stories from my university’s career advisor, I have come up with five common mistakes students can make when applying for internships for the first time. I have shared them with you below.

1. Microsoft Word will not catch misspelled words that are in ALL CAPS.

If you send out a resume or cover letter to a (hopefully) future employer, make sure to spellcheck with both Word and your eyes.

Personally, I believe that using the spellchecker in Microsoft Word has helped me catch a few mistakes that I would not have caught myself, but Word will not catch everything. For example, Word will not see anything wrong with EDCATION, but an angry red line will underline the word edcation.

TIP: Pay attention to every detail of your resume before sending it out. Make sure the format is consistent, make sure that if you decide to end descriptions with a period, than a period ends every description, and also pay close attention to headings you put in caps.

2. Not sending out enough resumes and cover letters.

Like I stated earlier, in less than one year I applied for 50 different internships. Of that 50, I received a reply from only six. Of that six, I was interviewed for four. When I told my career advisor at my college about this he told me the fact I actually got four interviews was outstanding.

TIP: Part of getting a job or internship is like the lottery: the odds are in your favor if you are being considered for multiple positions at once. Personalizing each resume and writing a new cover letter for each position is a lot of work, so start early and send out applications frequently.

3. Only applying to the big name companies.

You can be completely qualified for the position, but the chances of being against students who are just as qualified as you are higher when applying to big name companies. There are also perks to an internship with a small company. Yes, small companies are less likely to offer you a job at the end of your internship, but a small company would give you more responsibility. It is more impressive to put on your resume that you were in charge of a marketing campaign for The Local Company than that you delivered coffee for The Big Name Firm. Your supervisors for a small company are also more likely to get to know you, which will lead to better letters of recommendation.

TIP: Think of the pros and cons of each offer when deciding on an internship, and look at internship descriptions rather than company names when applying. What do you want to be doing in your future career, and what do you want to be doing right now? The description can be more important than the company name when looking for an internship.

4. Applying for your dream internship first.

There is a saying about how the first batch of pancakes is always thrown out, and the saying can be applied to resumes and cover letters. Even the best writer will improve with more practice. Your first resume and cover letter could be completely mistake proof, but you will come up with better designs and ideas as time goes by.

When I started my fall semester junior year, I found my dream internship, which was actually paid and nearby, so I drafted my first resume. There was nothing grammatically incorrect about my resume nor were there any typos; it was just boring. I did not write creative job descriptions. For example, I have worked in retail for the last five years and only wrote bullet points that said: “I assisted the customers. I filled orders.” This is not technically wrong, just not very descriptive. How did I assist the customers? What orders? Did I do anything else, like help train new employees in product design, technology use, and customer service (which was later added to my resume)? I came up with better ideas as I kept writing resumes. I also changed up the design of my resume a few times by adding color and playing with tables.

TIP: You want your resume and cover letter to basically be a written photograph of yourself. If you are a writer, sound like a writer. If you are creative, look and sound creative. Even use color for your headings or graphic designs. If you are experienced, make sure it shows.

5. Are you willing to relocate?

If you are, it needs to be stated. This applies to any job or internship that is farther than 45 minutes away. It may seem implied if you are applying for a job that definitely cannot be completed remotely, but it is not implied. For some internships you will have to fill out separate applications, which may ask if you are willing to relocate. If not though, the employer may think you were hoping for a position you could complete on your laptop at home.

TIP: The last thing you should make sure to check when applying for a position out of the area is to make sure “I am willing to relocate for this position” is somewhere on your cover letter.

If, after reading this, you are still staring in doom at your computer screen, please remember that there are other resources at your disposal. Most universities have career advisors and professors who will proofread your resume. Most universities also have internship and job fairs, which I highly recommend attending. This is your chance to talk with employers before you write to them, which can set non-writers at ease. If you find yourself without these valuable resources, look for examples of cover letters and resumes online to assist you in drafting your own. Then, the most important mantra: proofread, apply, and repeat. Proofread, apply, and repeat.

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