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Resume Help/Confused about building a resume in University


Hey there,

I am currently a first year business management student in University. I have been very used to doing things that interest me and I enjoy throughout my whole school life, such as soccer or being involved in acting or dancing. Studies was merely obligatory, so I followed through the motion and always just studied enough to see myself moving on to the next level with decent or sometimes even good grades.

However now in University, things have changed. I realise that I can no longer be my same self as I was in school. Everything that everybody does here is meant to contribute to their resume. People take up a co-curricular activity so that they can get a leadership position in it and it could contribute to their resume. Many fight for internships at the top firms, regardless of the job, so as to get their work experience registered on their resume.

I feel that many make such superficial efforts to bolster their resume, but they are not actually talented or good when it comes to doing the work. So my question here is, is it more important to be educated and improve my skills and knowledge in univeristy? Or is it more important to focus on doing a countless things I don't enjoy just for the sake of having lots of stuff to display on my resume?    

Also, I am overwhelmed with the amount of opportunities provided by the university with regards to internships, community service, workshops, courses etc. How do I select which opportunities to choose?


Hi Jackson,

The most direct answer to your question is that it is important to do both: it is important to acquire knowledge and skills that will make you an attractive job candidate AND it is important that you take advantage of opportunities that demonstrate your interest in the career that you intend to pursue.  Far from describing these opportunities as "stuff to display" on your resume, I would counsel you to think of these activities as important initiatives taken on your part that help an employer separate you from all the other candidates that you will be competing against for jobs.  Remember this: the  job goes to the person who knows best how to get hired, not necessarily the person is is best qualified.  Knowing how to get hired includes taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves that will help any employer see you as an informed and well-prepared candidate.  Doing community service, taking workshops, working at internships are all included in those opportunities.

You are assuming that your colleagues are doing these things to contribute to their resume and that they are not necessarily interested in what they do.  Maybe they aren't, but maybe they are genuinely interested in filling out their educational background so that they can bring the broadest possible experience level to their job search.  I would suggest you find which of these things interest you the most and then focus on getting the most you can out of that experience.  I would also caution you against assuming that colleagues are making "superficial efforts" when they engage in these activities.  Perhaps some of them are, but my experience tells me that many of them are making a genuine effort to go into a job interview presenting the most value possible to the employer.  And that is what you have to do.

If you have, up to this point, merely gone "through the motions" I suggest that you look at this process in a different way.  If you describe yourself in a cover letter or on a resume in ways that give an employer the idea that you haven't done all you could with the time you had, your chances at an interview are greatly diminished.  If you do into an interview with the idea that you have done just "enough to see yourself moving on to the next level," that point of view will come through in the way you describe yourself as a job candidate.  That isn't what will impress any employer.

Find the thing that really motivates you, the thing that you can focus positive energy on, and then pursue everything you can that helps you to be prepared in the best possible way in that field or endeavor.  THAT is the person you want to present to a prospective employer.  Bring positive energy and a strong work ethic to what you do now, and those efforts will pay off when you actually start looking for your first job in your career.

Best of luck,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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