Your College Graduate: A Bump on a Log?


“Rich, I know you do professional resumes, but can you take a look at my son’s resume? John just graduated from college,” asked Charles, a Chief Technology Officer and former client. I prepared his documents and career coached him about three years ago. He had multiple job offers and decided on a position with a leading SaaS company.

“College resumes can be much more challenging than most people think. So, what do you think may be missing from your son’s resume?”

“Here’s the thing. The resume looks okay. I mean, visually, it looks okay, but people have said it doesn’t fairly represent him, and I agree. It does not have any fire.”

“I would be thrilled to look it over.” 

New graduates and college students, like many job applicants, are unaware of what is important to hiring managers regarding their academic experience. Their resumes seem to focus on part-time jobs and grade point averages. These things can be essential and should be listed on their resume. However, like any resume, what is vital is based on what a hiring manager wants to see. What the hiring manager is looking for in a resume varies widely from industry to industry.

But regardless of industry, all hiring managers have one primary concern:  “What is this young professional going to bring to the position? Will they need to be micromanaged? Are they driven? Do they have a passion for the industry?  Are they going to be just filling a seat or be a bump on a log until they learn the position?” 

The goal of writing a college resume is to demonstrate that the student makes/has made “things happen.” In professional resumes, the focus is on outcomes/achievements in a position. For college resumes, the emphasis is on driving and leading results in any part of the student’s life. This can be in terms of grade point average, special projects, sports, part-time jobs, internships, volunteer work within or outside the academic institution, sororities/fraternities, clubs, groups, and more. 

The goal is to quantify the student’s participation and leadership – no matter what the measure. 

Ways to Think About College Successes

As I spoke with Charles’ son, John, I identified many successes across many areas of his experience. Unfortunately, his father was correct:  John’s resume lacked the fire that John brought to all of his endeavors.

– He was the de facto Team Lead and/or critical contributor on multiple classroom/real-world group projects selected as Top Projects and presented/delivered to sponsoring companies.

– His grade-point average was a B+, but in his major, Marketing, his grade point average was a high A.

– Within a campus business group, he had been the Marketing Committee Lead. Over three years, he had planned and led/attended 30+ membership, awareness, and fundraising events. His leadership was instrumental in raising $30,000 for group and nonprofit projects over the course of 3 years. He was also one of the Top 2 membership recruiters.

– As an intern, he had taken over marketing and recruitment for a 2-week virtual workshop based out of Chicago. He marketed to and recruited Civil Engineers from Italy, Pakistan, and India. In 3 months, he recruited 2X the number of Civil Engineers that management expected.

– As a member of an intern group tasked with writing a grant request for a documentary film, he wrote the initial pitch for the grant request. The grant was awarded, and the film was selected as one of the best documentaries of 2020.

– As the fraternity Social Director, he launched a nonprofit fundraising campus comedy night with renowned professional comedians. The event was so successful that it became an official annual campus event sanctioned by the college administration.

– He led a team in a League of Women Voters “Register to Vote” drive within a local urban center. His team registered 150+ new voters in 24 hours – 3X more than the next best team.

I coached John on job searching and interviewing. With his new resume and upgraded LinkedIn profile, he landed a summer internship and a full-time position starting in August.