Everything Counts. Really. Everything.

I have often been surprised by how students classify “experience” in their minds.  Some assume that in resumes, only academic information and paid work belongs.  In cover letters, some limit their sentences to mention only directly connected work or projects – of which, for some jobs, there may be little.  For interviewing, several candidates have asked me – quite recently, actually – if they are “allowed” to talk about experiences not on their resume, even when those may be the best example they have of a particular skill.

My response to these students – and you, if you think there are things you “can’t” include for whatever reason – is to be creative and use those critical thinking skills honed over years of education – consider including everything about you that could possibly be related to your career path.  Everything.  And don’t worry, we can edit later!

Perhaps you were a camp counselor or lifeguard, but don’t mention that work because it’s not “related” to what you’re studying and the internship to which you are applying.  Or, if you tutored a family friend in a subject because he asked – does that belong?  Maybe you have been very much involved in social and club experiences that may not be connected to your field of study.  It all may have a place.

The best way to determine whether or not an experience or activity of any type is worth including is to ask yourself “how did I develop a skill or demonstrate a personal characteristic while involved in that endeavor?”  As a camp counselor, were you were responsible for overseeing younger campers (leadership) and planning recreational activities (organization) and had to assist one of your charges in an emergency situation (problem-solving)?  For more social or extracurricular activities, did you plan an event (organization again) as part of a committee (team work) for which you created fliers and a Facebook event (marketing/advertising/social media) and that drew 50% more attendees this year than last (quantifiable achievement)?

As you prepare your resume, cover letters, and answers for interview questions, and especially if you are not certain about what “belongs” in your applications or what you can mention in an interview, please come to Career Services.  We’re glad to help you think through this process, at whatever stage you’re in!

Author: Jamie Grant

Jamie Grant is Associate Director of Career Services for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.