Does your resume have room for improvement? Here’s how you can stand out when applying for internships and jobs — and make a little cash.
Chances are, if you’re young, your resume sucks — or at least has room for improvement. When working with clients at Students4Students College Advisory, I saw weak activity sheets that look like everyone else’s.
But when we look further into the issue, it makes sense. Between class, studying, extracurriculars and the attempt at enjoying our youth, it’s hard to squeeze in resume-building time. Nevertheless, you must have differentiated and impressive resumes when applying to college and for internships and jobs.
Look to freelance work to boost your resume.
Stick to what you know
When I talk to Forbes 30U30s or Thiel Foundation 20U20s I hear similar undertones — “When I was in high school / college, I started my first company.” And it’s always the same field.
How do most young adults make money without documentable skills? They use the abilities they do have. They babysit, walk dogs and tutor. But recruiters aren’t wowed by peer tutoring on the 45th resume in a row.
So how do these elite young adults make it stand out? Ah, because they don’t just tutor, but start educational firms.
Let’s first look at Brian Sheng, who at age 18 was possibly the youngest-ever managing partner at a venture capital firm. At 20, Sheng’s on the phone with millionaire investors and the hottest startups in the Bay area. But Sheng started with what he knew most about — standardized testing. Sheng founded an SAT prep company in high school and leveraged social media to grow it.
Dan Fine, recently covered by the NYT, is the creator of Glass-U, a popular sunglass firm with licensing deals from colleges, fraternities and FIFA. Dan sells thousands of units and is working on yet another startup Dosed, a mobile solution for diabetes patients. Dan traces his start to the humble creation of NexTutors, a tutoring service that aligns students and clients based upon personality.
Rule number one is stick to what you know. If you’re good with kids, then babysit. But as opposed to just watching your neighbor’s daughter on Saturday nights, spend the $50, incorporate a business and begin your adventure running a childcare service by young people for young people — now that’s a resume boost.
Take your part-time gig seriously
Students are always looking for ways to make money, and freelance sites like Fiverr and Elance make that possible — even easy. But don’t think that because your work isn’t full time it isn’t worth your full energy. Part-time gigs can provide big value to resumes, and investing emotional energy into the project is worth it.
Chirag Kulkarni was a competitive tennis player outraged by the high prices of stringing racquets. He tinkered with stringing them a little differently and started doing it on the side. But if Chirag dismissed the work as just another few hours to his week, it would’ve ended there.
Instead, Chirag took the job seriously, and (taking the advice in the previous section) incorporated his company. STR grew fast with ultra low-cost, high-efficiency mechanisms, and with huge contracts from the likes of Dicks and Golfsmith, and VC interest, STR was sold. Chirag is onto his next project and taking it just as seriously.
Tayo Rockson was the kid who wouldn’t shut-up — all he wanted to do was talk about being different. He started to blog and tweet, and his side-work became meaningful. He didn’t get caught up in the stress of his MBA classes, and was personally invested in the gig.
Tayo turned his passion into a brilliant magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine recently ranked his business podcast number 2. Tayo has turned UYD Mag into a multimedia machine, and it all started with a part-time gig.
Create opportunities that don’t exist
Too often, high school students want to get involved at a young age in the political campaign process, but can’t find positions available for their group. A college freshman wants to delve into neurology, but can’t find a position online. The college sophomore loves accounting, but can’t commit to a 9-to-5.
You must learn to create your own opportunities if the ones you seek don’t exist.
- Want to work in policy? Call your local congressman and volunteer to run his social media accounts page.
- Interested in neurology? Find a doctor, and plead with him to allow shadowing on weekends.
- Eager to immerse yourself in accounting? Go to a local firm, and tell them you’d like to work Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6.
Stop accepting the status quo and create opportunities.
Napoleon Hill tells, in the classic Think and Grow Rich, the story of Edwin C. Barnes, who wanted nothing more than to be Thomas Edison’s assistant. He traveled the distance, sought out Edison and insisted on a job. Edison eventually acquiesced, and Barnes was along for the ride of his life.
Austin Ogden is a college student who enjoyed marketing. He wanted bigger contracts and better clients, used lumpy mail to attract the attention of executives and grew his sales-funnel marketing group fast. These higher profiles wouldn’t have given a young person the time of a day, but Ogden found a way to create his own opportunity and grab clientele.
Being young is great. Eat whatever, say whatever, do whatever. But your resume suffers. By monetizing comfortable skills, committing to part-time work and exploring opportunities not often afforded to younger folk, under 30s can leverage freelance to truly boost their resume. (Click here to tweet this advice.)
There are resources trying to bridge the gap and give young people the flexible work experience necessary — one of the best is OpenCampus. As young people, we need to keep finding ways to compete, and freelance work can take us one step closer.
At 18, Justin Lafazan is an author, entrepreneur, consultant and innovator. He dedicates his time to helping young people leverage their age and energy to compete in the 21st Century. Visit his website at JustinLafazan.com, and follow him on Twitter at @JustinLafazan.