You know your job hunt is going to be a difficult one when even entry-level positions require several years of experience. How are you supposed to get a job if you need work experience first? It’s an age-old struggle. Fortunately, college can provide experience-based alternatives that will help you to #getthatjob!
Although you may be tempted to join every club just to pad your resume--don’t. Employers see right through this. Phil, Hiring Expert at Merck & Co., Inc., explains that “I would caution you against adding ‘everything’ to your resume if it doesn't speak to your professional goals or leadership abilities. For most people, a one-page resume is more than enough--especially for those who are still in college.”1 If you attend one club meeting and never go back, don’t list that club on your resume.
Instead, it’s better to only list organizations in which you actively participate. Traci, Hiring Expert at Accenture, cautions: “Chances are, if it is on your resume you will be asked about it in an interview so be prepared to talk about these things.”2 You’re more likely to be successful if you can have a knowledgeable conversation about your resume items, so only list things to which you are actually dedicated.
The best alternative to internship experience is positions of leadership. Jenna, Hiring Expert at Emerson, points out that “being involved on campus is a close second to experience, especially if the groups are related to your major and field of study. It shows initiative, organization, time management, and can sometimes provide field experience as well (with involvement in technical clubs such as First Robotics, Engineers Without Borders, etc.).”3 Find some organizations in your field and get involved.
Anyone can join a club, but not everyone is willing to devote the time and effort to hold an executive position. Especially if you’re involved in clubs within your field, leadership positions can help your resume stand out from other students. Ashlyn, Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, explains, “I think it is always a ‘plus’ or ‘nice to have’ if students are involved on campus and in extracurricular activities. It shows time management, prioritization, and team work.” 4
If you’re on the board of anything, be sure to explain what experience you’ve gained. For example, if you’re on your fraternity’s philanthropy board, show how you organized events, how much money you raised, and how that money was used. Or, if you’re a STEM major, you’ve probably worked in a lab at some point. That is a big deal. Be sure to show what you did and how you learned from it. Expounding upon the duties you performed will show a potential employer that you do have experience and that you’re willing to work hard and learn from every work opportunity.
College provides more resources than just the chance to be involved in clubs. Professors and counselors are there because they want to help you, so don’t be afraid to use them. As Tony, Hiring Expert at Hill-Rom, notes: “College courses help in preparing students as much as they can for the real world. Networking with professors and taking leadership roles in certain clubs/organizations will also help you gain valuable experience that can be translated into real life scenarios in the future.”5
Additionally, visit your career center. Talk with your career counselor about potential jobs as well as the effectiveness of your resume. Most colleges also have a website to view job openings. Applying through that website will show employers that you’re associated with your school, and it might make you stand out compared to competition who applied through an open channel.
Just because you don’t have professional job experience doesn’t mean that you never will. If you know how to structure your resume, your college activities can provide the platform to a real world job. All you have to do is make the most of your time in college and keep applying.