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According to a recent CareerBuilder college survey, one-in-four hiring managers say relevant experience is the top thing they look for in a new graduate. If you can find a paid internship or can afford to take an unpaid one, more power to you. You have a head start on the job market. For the rest of you -- even if you've never worked in an office -- your college days have given you more experience than you might think. You just need to strategically market your campus activities.
Before you write your résumé, consider your:
Remember those weeks you spent in the student center working on that group advertising project? That's experience. So is that 3,000-word investigative journalism story you researched all semester. If you worked on a project or report in the classroom that directly relates to a certain field, by all means include it on your résumé. Sometimes, creating a strategic list of classes you've taken can give you an edge. For example, say you're a premed-turned-journalism major. You'd be a great candidate if you came across a posting for a science reporter job. Create a "Relevant Coursework" section on your résumé, and list your important journalism classes alongside the biology and chemistry classes you took as an underclassman. A word of caution: Don't list classes for the sake of listing classes. The section is called "Relevant Coursework" for a reason.
Meticulously folding T-shirts into identical stacks at the Gap or bussing tables at Red Lobster might not seem like the kind of experience employers are looking for. But your part-time gig taught you some important skills that can translate to any workplace. Think about when you waited tables: You probably learned to diplomatically handle all sorts of people -- even the difficult ones. Plus, working your way through school (especially if you didn't let your grades suffer) shows dedication and impressive time-management ability. When you include these jobs on your résumé, the key is to not just list your job duties. Focus on accomplishments (like when you increased sales by 10 percent at the hot dog stand) or skills learned on the job.
Campus leadership positions
It's impressive to be dorm president. It's even more impressive when you show how you successfully managed a $10,000 budget and created and implemented a plan to reduce dorm vandalism, reduced cleaning costs by 50 percent year-over-year. Don't rely on a fancy title -- show how your time and hard work made an impact on your organization.
Clubs and other extracurriculars
So, you couldn't get a job because you spent all your non-class time on the basketball court? Your time as a varsity athlete likely taught you leadership, teamwork and some serious time-management -- all things employers consider to be important. Or maybe you were in charge of your sorority's recruitment. You now have experience managing a budget, supervising a staff and coordinating PR efforts to make your sorority's image as positive as possible.
If you spent a day or two a week helping out at a nursing home or writing up fliers for a political campaign, don't discount the value of your work. More than 60 percent of hiring managers say they count volunteer work as relevant experience, according to CareerBuilder.com. Again, keep in mind that a list of accomplishments and skills is much more compelling than a list of job duties.
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