College Involvement Builds Your Resume

Leighton Brown

What does it mean to be actively involved? Is joining an organization enough? Does it look more impressive to have five different memberships on your résumé?

It’s common these days to hear about people who aren’t getting hired. They are confused because they have impressive résumés with all of these diverse organizations listed. They have been under the impression for the past four years of college that they are set. They will get a job. “They’ve done a lot in college.”

The idea is not to join five organizations just to have five different memberships. The idea is to strategically join two or three, and actively be more than just a member.

“Ten years ago joining organizations used to be enough of a novelty to employers,” Ron Culp, director of the Graduate PR and Advertising Program at DePaul University. “That’s not the case anymore.”

With the ever-changing job market and the competition constantly getting tougher each year, Culp suggests that joining organizations just to join is not impressive. What did you specifically do in that organization to set yourself apart from the rest of its members? How did joining that organization make you a better practitioner in your field?

When he headed Ketchum’s Midwest office, Culp often received hundreds of résumés weekly — that’s intimidating! How exactly would your résumé stand out amongst all of those?

For those seeking to add important components to their professional toolbox, Danika Daly suggests in a recent blog post that you should revamp your social media appearance, be a more proactive student and better your overall chances for success as an aspiring PR professional!

Similar to the importance of being actively involved in student organizations, getting internships that are relevant to your desired major is likely one of the most important things you can do for yourself in your college career. When Culp interviews prospective employees, the first thing he looks at is their major. Then, he immediately looks for experiences one has obtained that are relevant to that major.

Practical experience in the field is a must. Geri Evans, president and CEO of Evans PR Group said, “Experience is crucial because it makes you a more well-rounded person. You don’t really know exactly where you’re going to be in four years, so the more diverse, but strategic experience you can obtain the better your chances are. You have to prepare yourself for the wonderful array of the unique possibilities out there!”

It’s important in your college years to experience a diverse amount of opportunities and internships. Every opportunity helps you develop as a better professional. “Find your place where your passion and talent is and make a difference! Every experience counts toward your professional tool box,” Evans said.

Another common assumption is, “I am an A student; I’m bright, so I’ll be okay.” Yes, making high grades is impressive, but that’s not enough. Both Culp and Evans said they would much rather hire a B average student who possessed a diverse amount of relevant experiences, rather than the A average student who just made straight A’s.

Both also expressed the importance of professional development while being a student. If you can maintain strong grades, indulge yourself in a diverse amount of experiences, and keep up with a strong network, you pretty much have a golden ticket for life after college.

Ron Culp’s advice for new college students:

-It’s never too early to focus on your career. You think you have four years, but you really don’t. The time goes by fast.

-Get involved as early as you can. Start being a leader. Start making a difference.

Geri Evans advice for new college students:

-Seek out an upper-level classmate in the field you are interested in.

-Make an appointment with your adviser to discuss possible career paths. Ask them how you can be successful in college and out of college.

-Take the initiative and ask questions early.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your college involvement. It’s the choices that you make in the four years you are at college that will help shape the beginning of your career.

The last thing you want to do at the end of your four years is say, “I wish I would have done more.”

A native of Orlando, Florida, Leighton Brown is a public relations major and art history minor at The University of Alabama.  She is president of the Alabama PRSSA chapter and is an account director of the student-run Capstone Agency.  This post initially appeared in Platform, the online magazine supported by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. 

9 thoughts on “College Involvement Builds Your Resume

  1. Branding yourself! Ron Culp’s quote in this posting by Leighton Brown demonstrates clearly the great contribution to a successful job search from your personal branding efforts.

    When guest lecturing at DePaul University for Advancing Marketing classes, I focus on personal branding’s role in first time and early career job searches. I have put together a branding pyramid, a part being organization involvement. Your participation including leadership roles contributes to your résumé; self-educating about working in groups; and often not realized until later, to building lifelong relationships. Those relationships have the potential to benefit you professionally and personally, forever.

  2. I am Elaine Quitos, a student from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo., majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Human Resource Managment. I also currently am a part of different organizations on campus, two of which are PRSSA and a Greek organzation. At Semo, there are many organizations, however Greek organizations are becoming more popular, my question is do you think it is a good idea to put a Greek organization on your resume especially if you hold many positions related to your major or would that be a bad idea?

    1. Elaine: Greek affiliation can enhance your resume when you note career-relevant positions within the sorority. Stand-alone mention of Greek affiliation adds little to your resume unless you happen to be interviewing with someone who also belonged to that sorority. So, be sure to mention all PR/HR related activities.

  3. My name is Derek May and I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University. The article’s expression of importance of real life related experience and campus involvement during a student’s college life is a positive reinforcement and great advice for students in their freshman and sophomore year. Graduating in May, I have taken full advantage of gaining as much experience through internships and related experiences as well as becoming very involved on campus. I do have one question though. You mention that employers will look at one’s resume for experiences related to one’s major and those experiences relatable to the position you are applying for. For very involved students who have held multiple leadership positions in different organizations, have had numerous work experiences and internships, and could extensively talk about experiences in both, how does an applicant fit this information on to a one page Resume, or is it acceptable to go on to two pages with credible information? When describing campus involvement, does one just need to list leadership involvement, and then explain more in detail during the possible interview?

    1. Derek: Although one-page resumes for college students are expected by most employers, it is entirely acceptable to go onto a second page IF you have an abundance of relevant experience. Don’t over play activities that you did more than two years ago, perhaps lumping them into a number of quick bullet points. Primarily focus on what you’ve done over the past two years, and talk about achievements, not just job descriptions. To your point, if someone is keenly interested in one of the bullet points, they’ll ask during the interview and that’s the time you can expand on what you did. Good luck.

  4. My name is Lauren Bledsoe and I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I am majoring in Public Relations with minors in Creative Writing and Human Resource Management. I really found it refreshing and helpful to see that you believe that it is important to have a lot of diverse experience and involvement on your college campus and in your professional life. I am involved in a Greek organization and PRSSA on campus and sometimes I am afraid that this is not enough. You give the advice to start being a leader and start making a difference. During the summer months I work at an all girls camp out on the east coast and it is something that I love to do. But now that I am getting to be further in my academic and professional world, I am afraid that this experience will look irresponsible, because I am not interning or working on my professional career. Do you think that employers will find it impressive that I have experience outside of the college world or should I become more involved on campus?

    1. Lauren: If you have worked in the girls’ camp for more than one summer, your resume will need a summer experience that underscores your interest in public relations. While some employers will respect the important work you’re doing at the camp, others will feel you missed important opportunities to gain PR experience that more directly relates to the jobs they will be trying to fill. If you are already obligated to working at the camp again this summer, see if your role could be expanded to include a PR role. Employers want to see multiple internships and real-life experiences in addition to campus activities.

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