Resumes & Potato Chips

This blog post has been updated by Jessica McLeod-Waddell, Assistant Director of Operations and Strategy on 5/9/2024 for relevancy, inclusivity, and formatting.

One of the most common mistakes I see college students make is the misperception that their many college achievements - whether academic, leadership, or internship related - have “earned” them a job.  They couldn’t be more wrong!  While they have, in fact, earned a degree and gained valuable experience, the only other thing they’ve earned or gained is an opportunity to compete for a job. And the first step in that process is developing a resume that is representative of their many achievements!

I would venture a guess that most of you already have created a resume, right?  But just having a basic resume is like saying, “I have a laptop.”  Having one is nice, but it’s what’s in it (or on it) that counts!  So while you may have a resume, the question you need to ask yourself is this, “Are you 100% confident that your resume effectively markets your internships, leadership experiences, academic honors, and skill sets?”  

Most of the time when you study for an exam, you’re spending hours preparing.  Likewise when you write a paper, you write, edit, and revise several times before publishing the final draft.  To develop an effective resume, you’ll need to follow the same processes.  Be sure to put some time into the process (read several hours minimum) and write, edit, and revise! 

Since you can read about resume writing nuts and bolts in the UGA Career Guide, I’m not going to cover resume basics in this blog.  As a student at UGA, I expect more when it comes to resume development.  After all, you are enrolled at a nationally ranked, highly competitive institution.  There’s nothing ordinary about this University and what it took to get you here.  Therefore, there should be nothing ordinary about your resume…it should be nothing less than exceptional!  You might ask, how do I get there?  Below I’ve outlined three key concepts about resume writing.  Read the UGA Career Guide, follow these guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a truly exceptional resume!

1. Packaging = Aesthetics.  Is your resume professional, attractive, appealing?  Most of the time, an employer spends on average about 20 seconds during the initial resume screen.  An easy way for employers to narrow the pool from a stack of 100 resumes down to 20 or so is through appearance alone.  Does the resume look nice?  Is it easy to scan for important details, information, skill sets?  Does it grab my attention?  

Picture this…you’re in a convenience store late at night, you’re hungry, and you’re craving a bag of chips.  But, you’ve never seen the three brands the store is carrying.  Why do you choose one brand over another?  My guess…it’s all about the packaging!!!  It’s aesthetics.  Does it look nice?  Attractive?  Appealing?  On the surface, aesthetics is the very first thing we look at so be sure your resume is “packaged” to sell!  

2.  Product = Content.  So, your resume looks nice, but let’s delve a little deeper.  You know those excellent academics, leadership experiences, and internships we referenced at the beginning of the blog?  Well, it’s not enough to just have them…you’ll need to actively and effectively market them!  For example, in your “Experience” section there should be more to your bullets than just your responsibilities.  To help you effectively sell your experiences on paper, remember the acronym SAIL.  S – emphasize the Skills you’ve developed, A – highlight your Achievements, I – define your Impact, and L – explain what you’ve Learned.  

When it comes to your resume, you are the product, and the product needs strong, supporting content!  Let’s go back to the potato chips example.  Chips looked great on the outside, packaging was fantastic, but they didn’t deliver.  Why?  Maybe they tasted stale, dry, and way too salty!  Great packaging, bad content.  Your resume’s appearance needs to be supported by strong content.  

3. Personalization = Tailored.  The third key is to know, understand, and leverage your market.  I’m not going to try to sell those potato chips in a market area where pretzels are king, right?  Absolutely not!  I’m going to do some market research to identify the populations where I have the greatest chance of successfully selling potato chips. In Helen, GA during Oktoberfest, pretzels and nuts would likely be the preferred snack food.  In movie theatres, it’s clearly hot buttered popcorn.  A deli restaurant…now we’re talking potato chips.  

So, how does this apply to your resume???  Resumes can be targeted – not only by using your objective statement, but far beyond that by creating sections with special emphasis for specific employers, career tracks, or industries.  I see far too many students having absolutely no idea what they want to do…therefore, instead of applying for a career, they are applying for jobs!  One job pops up and they apply for that, a completely different job pops up, and they go after that…they’re chasing a job, not focusing on jobs within a specific career area.  What happens if you’re more focused?  You know the career you’d like to have, understand the career paths, know the industry, and likely know the company.  Bottom line - you’re prepared!!!  As your knowledge base increases, your confidence follows providing you with a keen insight into what the employer is seeking.  Doing your research (bare minimum of company and job description) provides you with the information you’ll need to effectively tailor your resume.  

Looking for some great examples and tips on what this looks like on a resume?  Check out the UGA Career Center Website!

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