How to Create an Effective Student Resume

effective student resume

Just because you don’t have a long, established career, doesn’t mean you can’t create an effective student resume. You may have to dig a little deeper to surface your relevant skills and experience, but I bet you are better positioned to stand out than you think you are.

I’ll address resume formatting and best practices in another post. The following information really focuses on the meat and potatoes of your resume. What you should be doing as a student to make your resume work for you, not against you.

Create an inventory of your experiences

Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and brainstorm all of the work, volunteer and leadership related experiences you have. Write down everything that comes to mind. You’ll likely be surprised by some of the experiences you forgot about.

This is just an exercise for you, so nothing you write down is stupid. Only the relevant experience will actually end up on your resume, but we want to get the juices flowing.

Tailor your resume to the company and internship you are applying for

Speaking of relevant experience, it is important that you tailor your resume for each internship that you are applying for. And no, I’m not talking about writing an objective statement at the top of your resume that says something generic like: “Seeking a marketing internship with ABC Co. to utilize my skills in creative writing.” (Actually, do me a favor and don’t put an objective statement on your resume at all. Save your “why” statements for the cover letter.)

Breaking down the multi-step process to tailor your resume…

  1. Print the description to the internship you are applying for. Highlight all of the requirements and job responsibilities that you have related skills and experience in. This highlighted list is going to become the blueprint for how you tailor your resume, and help you stand out when you apply.
  2. Disregard any experience you have that doesn’t match up to the highlighted list. (Think, high school babysitting.) The exceptions here are volunteer experience, athletics and any extracurricular activities of which you hold a leadership role. All of these are still great to include on your resume, even if they don’t translate to a specific line item on the employer’s job description.
  3. Under each relevant position of work experience on your resume, bullet point list the specific responsibilities you performed. There is an art to this as well. Again, lead with the specific responsibilities that are most relevant to the new position you are applying for. You want to catch the employer’s attention first thing, as people rarely read everything listed on your resume.

For example: When I was applying for my internship with the sports agency, Priority Sports, my prior internship experience was geared toward physical performance and training athletes. I didn’t have any direct experience in a business environment, let alone at a sports agency. However, I intentionally tailored my resume to lead with specific tasks performed at my Chicago Bulls internship that I knew Priority Sports would find most relevant. My bullet points started with all of the NBA Draft testing responsibilities I had, like player stat production and conducting interviews with collegiate coaching staff. I then followed my strong intro points with the less relevant information like daily player workouts.

Sound professional like the educated individual that you are

You don’t want to go over the top with big words or buzz words. You do want to pick keywords and action verbs that help make your story pop. Words like: executed, delivered, collaborated, represented, facilitated, developed. When you need to freshen up your vocabulary or add some variety to your resume, you can always count on google for a good ol’ synonym search.

Using the right vocabulary is another key opportunity to align your resume to the job description. Pay attention to the keywords employers use when talking about the position, and then follow suit.

Resume Checklist

Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible

Numbers will complete your story and help close the deal if you present them in the right way. Think of ways you can quantify the impact you had on an organization, or even a specific project. Maybe you helped streamline a process at your last internship. Quantify how much you reduced the average time to complete the process, demonstrating the time you saved your coworkers on administrative work. Or perhaps you helped edit video content for an employer’s marketing campaign. Highlight the hours of footage you edited to demonstrate the work behind the end result.

Most people can write fairly descriptive bullet points to communicate responsibilities they had. But not as often do people back this information up with numbers that communicate their data-driven value to an organization.

Highlight your education

Don’t forget to include your education information. After all, you are a student. When applying for an internship employers will expect to see this on your resume. They may even look for it to ensure that you are eligible for internship credits, etc.

Include your school, major (and any minors) and expected graduation date. GPA is not essential unless it is something that your industry heavily focuses on. If you do choose to include your GPA, make sure it is worthy of being mentioned. Remember, your resume should act as a highlight reel for you. Let the GPA question come up in the interview if they don’t specifically ask for it up front.

Finally, expand on your education section with specific extracurricular activities. Are you a student athlete (and maybe even a captain of your team)? Have you won any academic awards? Did you write a thesis that is relevant to the internship you are applying for? Are you on the board for your fraternity or sorority? These are all great things to highlight on your resume while you are still in school.

These tips should help you get started on building a solid student resume. If you’re looking for detailed feedback and tips to optimize your resume, I offer 1:1 resume reviews for students. Check out the Work With Me page for more information and to sign up for your personal coaching session. And if you’re looking for a quick win, you can sign up for my free course, LinkedIn on Lock!. Step-by-step guidance on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile in five, short, instructional videos.

How to Create an Effective Student Resume

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