It’s graduation season and once again, the resume, internship, and informational interview requests are rolling in. You’ve just graduated with a degree in communications, advertising, PR, or marketing, and have joined the thousands of other grads in competition for hundreds of entry level jobs and internships. It’s a tough market out there and I don’t envy the position you’re in at all. On the one hand, you’re being told you need to have experience to get the job, but to get that experience, you need a job. It’s a Catch-22 that many people never figure out, leading to them either going back to school hoping things will be easier with an advanced degree (they won’t) or giving up hope entirely.
As someone who has reviewed hundreds of resumes and hired a number of entry level folks over the years, I wanted to share five things that make those resumes stand out to me:
- Internships located away from your hometown and college – Ultimately, it’s the quality of the internship that is most important – did you get a chance to hold real responsibility? Interact directly with clients? Learn from respected professionals? Aside from that, one of the things that catches my eye is when I see that your internship was located in another city, away from your familiar surroundings. It shows me that you’re willing to take a risk, to go after an opportunity even if it’s not the easiest path, and that you can do it and come out better for it on the other side. There’s nothing wrong with taking the internship that will get you your college credits – with a local business, a family friend, or even with your own college, but if you want to stand out, consider taking that internship that’s a little bit scary and totally outside your comfort zone. After all, if you get a job in this industry, that’s pretty much where you’ll be every day – might as well get used to it now.
- Specific, detailed examples – One of my pet peeves is when I read resumes that read like job descriptions. Don’t spell out your job duties in a laundry list of bullets telling me what you were hired to do. Tell me what you did do. Rather than taking five bullets to tell me that you wrote press releases, managed social media sites, created media guides, and pitched media, tell me a story. How many press releases did you write? Can you link to them? What were the results? How many social media sites did you manage? What types of content did you share? What were the results? How many media guides did you create? How were they used? If you pitched media, was it local, regional, or national? Where were the results? What was your approach?
- An active, professional online presence – Link to your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter profile, your Tumblr, your LinkedIn profile – anything that will give me more information than what’s on your resume. Every new grad has a resume. Not as many have a credible, professional online presence. And please, at least make it look like these profiles weren’t started the day after you graduated. The people who have built and maintained their online presence over a long period of time will stand out over someone with no search results at all.
- A point of view on…something – If you’re going to have an online presence, make it worth something. Pretty much all recent grads have a decent resume. Most have a LinkedIn profile. Some have an About.me or similar site, but very few have a point of view on something related to marketing, advertising, or PR. You’ve got fresh eyes. You haven’t been jaded by years of bureaucracy, clients, and budgets. What needs to be changed? What do you want to accomplish? What are your thoughts on the future of social media? Are you a PR specialist? Then start a blog and talk about your thoughts on the industry. Get on Twitter and share your thoughts on the latest PR crisis. Share links to articles you’re reading on Facebook. This isn’t rocket science. If you’re a graphic designer, talk about the latest trends in graphic design. Share your opinion on who’s doing it right. Show me your thoughts and beliefs and what sets you apart from the hundreds of other people who claim to do that as well.
- A recognizable name – And by a name, I mean your name. It’s pretty easy to find the names, blogs, Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn profiles of people working at the organization you’re applying to. Before blindly filling out some form, attaching your resume and hitting submit, do some research first. Comment on the blog posts of the people in the department you’re applying to. Follow them on Twitter. Share one of their status updates with your network. That way, when your resume hits their desk, you’re not just another applicant, you’re that person who’s been making those insightful comments on your blog or retweeting your tweets.
There are a lot of new graduates and not a lot of available positions. Working three or four internships even after graduating is common. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don’t let a boring, run-of-the-mill resume keep you from reaching your potential. Spend some time now updating your resume and online presence to set yourself apart. Even that may not be enough to get you the job, but it should at least help you get your resume printed out and put on the boss’s desk a lot more often.