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Activities help, but are not a must

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MARCH 07, 2014

If, for some reason, you find yourself at the end of your college career without as many extracurricular activities as you would have liked, please allow me the pleasure of saying, “Welcome to the club.” Unlike high school, when things such as student government, sports teams and drama departments seemed so integral to daily involvement at school, my personal (and by no means atypical) four-year experience at UC Berkeley has encompassed eschewing most student clubs and avoiding the notorious Sproul student-group sprawl at all costs. Consequently, my somewhat bare and boring resume leaves something to be desired. Nothing about who I actually am or what my interests are seems to be conveyed well enough by my previously held jobs and internships. Aside from GPAs and explicitly stated, concrete work experience, what are the skills that can spruce up one’s profile as a potential employee? Mind you, this isn’t exactly an advice column — but I have come up with a few ways to fill the gaps in a resume, and I’ll share them with you now.

1. While at UC Berkeley, take advantage of the resources offered to you for free! Case in point: the Adobe Creative Suite 6 download package available for free to all UC Berkeley students. In an age when seemingly all of your peers have become exceptional Photoshop practitioners overnight, it’s important to keep up with the curve. If you can’t figure out how to alter a picture to make it look like your cat is sunbathing atop the pyramids of Giza with aviator glasses, what’s the point of even counting yourself as part of the millennial generation?

2. Learn another language. This one may seem obvious and should be an easy skill to acquire for UC Berkeley students, thanks to the breadth language requirements. If you’re like me, however, and haven’t developed an ability to readily wield any language other than English, it’s useful to visit a site like Duolingo to take a few courses. Quality would seem to rule over quantity in the instance of language, but somehow I’ve found that including that I am “comfortable” or “conversational” with Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese looks quite impressive. But if this is indeed your strategy, it’s best to exaggerate and overstate rather than lie. In other words, avoid the term “fluent” like the plague.

3. Learn to code (sort of). Disclaimer: I am not an EECS major and am speaking as someone who willingly concedes that “proficiency with Microsoft Office” was once the most technologically advanced asset to grace his job applications. Alas, my ineptitude when it comes to computer programming precludes me from holding a position at any up-and-coming Silicon Valley startups. This being said, it makes a world of difference if you have even the slightest inkling of understanding for writing HTML or Javascript. Add Code Academy to the list of free resources that will enhance your tech-savviness and bedazzle your resume. You may not get an offer at Google or Dropbox, but it is certainly a good thing to have on hand, even if just for yourself.

4. It’s never bad to have someone in the office who knows how to react in the event of an emergency, right? Fortunately, the city of Berkeley offers free Community Emergency Response Team training to anyone who lives or works in Berkeley. Classes include lessons on disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations and light search-and-rescue operations. If you can promote yourself as CPR-trained and CERT-certified, you will no doubt be seen as a noteworthy candidate by many employers. Go to cityofberkeley.info/cert/ to learn more.

5. Some of the best advice I’ve received as of late is this: Don’t waste your summers. Even if you’re loaded up on classes in the summer time, if someone asks you what you were up to on your summer vacation, have something more interesting to say than just “lecture.” The same is true for weekends. While they are, of course, the time students might dedicate to relaxing and recovering from the school week, using just a few hours of your precious weekend for something to put on your resume will only help your cause. Get as far away from campus and student living as you can! Interested in helping out at Spiral Gardens community food security project? Excellent. Manage to build a few years of Habitat for Humanity experience under your belt? You’re a hot commodity.

6. When looking to improve and lengthen that dusty old resume, avoid including banal skill set listings. You may truly be a multitasking, communicative, personable, punctual, organized, independently thinking team-player, but you are not advertising yourself as someone your potential employer hasn’t already seen or heard of. If asked, any interviewee would claim to embody all of these diligent traits. Especially due to the fact that the standard length for resumes is one page, don’t waste any space with this obvious information.

7. Don’t, under any circumstances, use Comic Sans on your resume. Unless, of course, the font is being used ironically.

Max Rosen writes the Friday column on life after college. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @RosenMax.

MARCH 06, 2014