The MOST important thing to know about starting your resume

The MOST important thing to know about starting your resume

“Have the experiences in the first place”

Having the experiences in the first place makes complete sense if you understand that the word resume comes from the French language meaning to “sum up”.  So your resume is a summary of your accomplishments.  And it’s natural to extend that thought to be: for you to summarize your accomplishments, you need to have the experiences in the first place.  Unfortunately this is often easier said than done.

We all know that transitioning into college / university is a challenge.  And if it isn’t a challenge for you, then you probably don’t need the information in this post.  But for the rest of us, figuring out how to balance lectures, tutorials, assignments, exams, clubs, friends, and life in general can be difficult.  So how can anyone make more time to have any other experiences worthy enough for a resume?  Here are a few pointers that might help.

1. Figure out how you are spending your time 

This does not take as much time as you think.  You don’t need a spreadsheet or even a piece of paper (although they help if you don’t have a great memory).  Here’s how you do it (these are just approximations, but “good enough”):

  • Let’s leave weekends out and assume you can spend them how you want (these can be bonus hours if you want)
  • For each weekday, let’s assume that you sleep for 8 hours a day, so that leaves 16 hours left
  • Let’s also assume you have a full course load of a job so take 8 hours out (so that’s 8 hours left)
  • Take 3 hrs for meals (as an average for all three of breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • So that’s 5 hours per weekday to do whatever
  • Let’s say you’re a keener and do 2 hrs of homework per weekday
  • Now all you have to do is account for 3 hrs
  • Go through Monday to Friday and think through how you spent your time that was not sleep, school/work, eating
    • How would you spend this time?
    • Are you a TV watcher?  Gamer?  Do you hang out with friends? Reading? Exercise? Volunteer?  Extra classes?  Part time work?

Now as I went through the scenario you probably thought to yourself that I gave way too much to certain parts, but great, that means you have that much extra time.  You don’t have to be accurate, but as you think through what you did for the week, think through which ones are important for you.


2. Prioritize and plan how you spend your time

So you thought about how you spent your time, and which ones are important.  Now you want to choose ones which are important going forward (prioritizing) and planning what to do during the time that was previously spent on unimportant activities.  Now this could have a post on its own, but think about a few goals that you have that would be beneficial for your future career.  If you can’t think of any, what about:

  • Volunteering: a very effective way to get experience if you can’t find a job/connection to get paid for doing the work
    • Example: If you are taking a degree in Communications, see if your local community center, church or other organization needs help in putting together any of their local publications
  • Clubs: a great way to develop your network, which you will find immensely useful later on
    • Better yet, what about being the executive member of a club (whether it’s the president, secretary, treasurer or whatever, those experiences can be a differentiation versus someone who has never had those opportunities)
    • And if you can’t find a club that you are interested in or passionate about, what about starting your own?
    • Example: if you are taking a degree in Accounting, join the Accounting club or Finance club or whatever similar club exists related to your future career
  • Learning: either an extra course or self learning and try to make it something that could be transferred to your career but is something that you are interested in.  That way it will be less like school/work and more like what you want to do
    • Example: if you taking a degree in Computer Science and always wanted to get into user experience and digital design, take an art class


3. Spend your time based on your plan

Now that you know what you want to do, just do it.  There are all sorts of tricks on how to stay focused on your plans.  There will be a bunch of things out there that will derail the best of intentions, so try to keep focused and go back to the reason why you are doing the activities to ultimately benefit your long term career.

Another important point is that after you’ve had these great experiences, you’ll want to start writing them down in your Career Document (a topic of another post).  Your Career Document will greatly help you when you’re looking to write your future resume.



You may not follow these steps exactly, but the point of this post is to get you to think about what you could be doing to include as part of your resume, and then do them.  Because you can’t summarize the experiences that you haven’t had…

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