Here are 8 life experiences that’ll boost your resume, make your cv stand out and make you heaps more employable.
For many students, a degree or diploma is a means to an end. It’s a qualification to help you land your dream job. But the job market is tough and landing your first job is always a catch 22: you need experience to be hired, but you need to be hired first to gain experience. Right?
Well, I have good news for you. The truth is more complicated than that.
I’ve had to hire for many roles throughout my career, and have made as many good hiring choices as bad ones. What I’ve learnt first-hand is that experience is important, yes, but it’s only part of the story. Many employers, myself included, is just as interested – if not more interested – in the candidate’s life experience. Culture fit and employee engagement are essential for productivity and morale. This only comes when you see that your candidate is a well-rounded individual and has life experiences that adds to or complements the team. This is true for any level of role, but especially so in entry-level positions. From full time careers to part time jobs.
Boosting your resume doesn’t come from having a previous job in a complementary field. This comes from having lived a life outside of the office. Here are 8 that always makes me sit up and pay attention to a candidate’s resume:
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Having an internship on a resume shows that you have had some experience working together with others in a business environment. It also shows that you are willing to invest your time towards a career and are committed to putting in the time to learn on the job. It doesn’t even have to be a directly complementary role or field. These skills are transferable and a smart employer knows that.
So get your foot in the door. Many universities or TAFE have internship program built into the degree, but even if not, reach out the careers department; I was lucky to be accepted into an internship program in my second year of university because there were surplus roles that were initially offered to final-year students that were up for grabs so I jumped at the opportunity. A connection there introduced me to my future boss in London and paved the way for an International gap year, so you never know who you might meet or what doors it will open up.
Traveling teaches you many important life skills that may seem like “soft” skills, but are very important to an employer. First and foremost, travel is the antidote to bigotry, so a long period of travel immediately tells your future employer that there’s a good chance you have great people and co-operation skills.
Travel also telegraphs project management skills, negotiation skills and adaptability. All of which make you a much more valuable team member than someone who has gone straight from school to uni to job.
So don’t be afraid to list your gap year or any sabbatical you may have had. At the very least, an interviewer can use that as an opening question and give you a chance to tell some (relevant and appropriate!) stories to built rapport.
Another great experience to have on your resume is volunteering for an Non-profit organisation. Volunteering shows that you care about something other than yourself, and are dedicated to make a difference beyond profit. Be open-minded about where you may volunteer your time too as it’s not just about the traditional course of aged care or community groups – even organisations like TEDX are run by volunteers and speak to your passions and ability to work as a team to achieve a common goal.
There are two types of mentoring programs and both are great ways to build your professional and life experience. First is as a mentor for someone junior to you. This could be programs like Youth Off The Streets or even Peer Mentoring Programs within your TAFE or University. The experience is immensely rewarding to help you see things from a different perspective and help others by sharing your own experience. It also tells your potential employer that you have experience managing someone else.
The other option is to be part of a mentorship program with someone within your industry. In my first job, I was lucky enough to be nominated to be a part of the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA)’s mentorship program and was paired with a senior partner of an advertising agency. She worked with me over 6 months to develop my skills and became an invaluable sounding board that gave me an outsider’s perspective on my challenges. Being a part of a program like this again shows to your employer that you are willing to work on your craft and expands your network, which is invaluable as you grow in your career.
Attend webinars, workshops or conferences in your chosen field
Speaking of networking, attending webinars, workshops or conferences in your field is an excellent way to meet people in your industry. Many people are afraid of or don’t know how to “network”, but honestly it is all about being yourself and not turning it into a “sales” exercise. Conferences give you a chance to learn from current practitioners in your industry, and – most importantly as you’re just starting out in your career – give you a chance to meet people who are further along in your chosen path. Do you like them? Are you interested in what they are interested in? It’s a great way to look into the future and see if this path is right for you.
Conferences are often quite expensive, but look for free webinar or workshop alternatives; there is always another way.
Hobbies, clubs and interests
I always look for something else that a candidate is passionate about outside of work. It’s important to have other interests because it gives you a sense of perspective and helps you avoid burnout. Most of all, if you’ve been in a club or have had a hobby for many years, it shows to your potential employer that you are able to commit to something and are able to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Create a portfolio
This one is a hot tip if you’re pursuing a career in a creative industry. If you don’t have a portfolio of real-life client work – take on imaginary briefs or challenges. Set yourself a challenge to come up with a new campaign, or a new poster design, or a new logo… whatever it is, don’t wait for a real-life situation, show your potential employer what you’re capable of. It will also show you have initiative and drive. Just be sure to come clean that these are mock briefs – don’t try to pass them off as real experience because the truth will always come out and puts you in a very bad light.
Similar to the point above, while you have time, pursue a course in a hobby that you’ve always enjoyed. Take a 10-week photography class, do an introduction to photoshop workshop, or complete an online course in Google Analytics. These may seem to not have a direct application to your role, it shows that you have a “learning mindset” – which is invaluable, especially for a junior team member, as it shows you are willing to learn and expand your skillset.
Now it’s time to get started and boost your resume to impress your future employers. You’ve got this!