Getting Involved

A big problem I had when first writing my resume stemmed from decisions I made and experiences I had before actually opening up a word doc and starting to write my resume. What do I mean by that? My biggest challenge in the initial stages of writing my resume, and one that many of you have, is that I didn’t actually have enough substantial content to put on my resume. So, this post is more a warning, or advice, about how to ensure you don’t have that same problem.

So how do you ensure you have good content on your resume by the time you go our for job recruitment or student club recruitment? Easy, have good experiences. Obviously it’s not that easy, but here are some general tips on how to put your best foot forward and amass some much-needed experience to put on your resume.

You have to make an active and concentrated effort to get involved. Depending on what career path you want to go down, “getting involved” can mean many different things. If you’re a freshman or sophomore in college: APPLY TO AS MANY STUDENT GROUPS AS YOU CAN. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, sign up for things you’re interested and apply to different clubs you might want to take part in - it’s not just a great way to prepare yourself for your career, but it’s an awesome way to meet like-minded people and make friends on campus. Get involved fast, and try to rise up to leadership positions in the organizations that mean the most to you.

This means actively prepping for interviews and applications, and fine-tuning your networking skills. To get into any job or club, you need to know how to answer application questions and you need to be personable and impressive in an interview. How do you know how to answer application questions? Read up. There are tons of resources available on the internet, but for the most part this is what I’ve seen people do:

Find a ton of practice interview questions that are relevant to the organization you want to join and prepare some answers for them. Let me make this very clear - when I say prepare some answers, I mean just think about what you can say about each question. Do not memorize your answers. Do not do it, you’ll come off as robotic and dry. Instead, for each interview question you find, think of a relevant story (if applicable) that you can talk about for about a minute that emphasizes good qualities and lessons that relate to the question.

In case that wasn’t clear, if someone asks you “What does leadership mean to you?” don’t respond by saying “Well a good leader does X and Y and ensures that she motivates her teammates.” That doesn’t tell the interviewer anything about you. Instead, talk about a time where you worked on a group project or played on a sports team and you - or someone else, but hopefully you - demonstrated some of the qualities that make a good leader. Take a similar approach to application questions.

Practice, practice, practice. Practice interview with your friends! Find someone who you’re comfortable with and has similar career goals as you, and interview each other. It’s easier to be comfortable in a real interview when you have some practice, and interviewing with a friend is a great way to practice in a low pressure environment. Similarly, practice networking with people in student groups or relevant industries. This has multiple benefits for you - you get to practice building your professional network, and you also get to learn a lot about what you’re getting into.

Remember: all of this is done before you even get any experience to put on your resume.

Once you do this, though, getting that experience you need is that much easier. If you get hit with interview or application questions that you’ve already seen before, that makes you seem that much more confident and impressive to the interviewer, which is never a bad thing. It’s also never a bad thing to know people in the organization you’re applying to - that gives you someone who can put in a good word for you, if you deserve it of course.

Now, an important point for the college students reading this out there - don’t overextend yourself. Get involved early, find out what interests you, and rise to a couple leadership positions if you can. But, trim the stuff that doesn’t necessarily tickle your fancy. Basically, choose to dedicate a lot of time to organizations that you’re passionate about, but don’t stick around and try to manage school, friends, fun, sleep, and four student groups. I tried to do something similar, plus going through finance recruitment, and let me tell you it was not a good time. It was super rewarding managing everything and seeing success in certain areas, but it takes a lot out of you and I’m not sure if I’d recommend it. Regardless, you’re young and you’ll figure things out eventually - so don’t stretch yourself too thin.

Going back to broader points about getting involved, it’s never too early to start. Don’t procrastinate.

One of my good friends - and a member of the Backlight team - incorporated his first business in 7th grade. That’s obviously an extreme example, but you get my point. As you’re cranking through your 6th episode of Game of Thrones, someone else is out there running case questions, going over banking technicals, or networking. I think it’s very important everyone gets their time to relax and unwind, but if you put things off and turn it into a habit, that spells bad news. Maybe watch one episode and then the rest of the time you allotted for Netflix, you can do some career-oriented stuff.

Just don’t be afraid or intimidated. Don’t be hesitant.” You have to be a go-getter to really blow someone away just with the content on your resume. Not to get all philosophical on you, but it’s pretty commonly said that people regret the things they don’t do much more than the things they do do (and mess up). Put yourself out there! It’s best to practice this while you’re young, and it translates to every aspect of your life. You never know, it could inspire newfound confidence that could turn into a job, relationship, who knows what. Get up and get to work!