Tips For the English Major to Bolster Your Resume

by Rachel Parker

It’s that time of year! Whether you’re a senior, like myself, hoping to pursue full-time work after graduation, or an underclassman hoping to score a summer job or internship, it’s application season. The English major prepares you for a wide variety of work opportunities and possible career paths, but it’s helpful to have a specific objective in mind when putting together your resume.

Image from HBO’s Silicon Valley

Over the years, my resume has worn many hats as my career goals have shifted. I’ve curated my resume for a myriad of jobs, and in doing so have learned that it’s very easy to use the same experiences and achievements for different job applications.

Below, I have a few tips to help you describe your life, work, and academic achievements in a way that strengthens your applications. In addition, I also have some tips on how to seek out English-related opportunities during your time here at Stony Brook to bolster your resume.

Emphasize office experience

During the interviews I’ve had, on applications I’ve sent in, and in conversations I’ve had at the Career Center, the topic of office experience has always come up. Employers are looking to see if you have experience working in an office setting, and furthermore if you are proficient in office-related skills that are needed for most of the jobs an English major would seek. These skills may include proficiency in various computer programs, organization, copying and scanning, and collaboration with colleagues. Even if you worked in a field seemingly irrelevant to English like a dentist’s office or an insurance company, include that office experience, because it will make your resume stand out.

Market your social media skills

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Most, if not all, businesses and corporations have a social media division. It is likely that whatever type of employer you’re applying to has or is attempting to strengthen some sort of digital presence. Those of us in university now have grown up becoming as fluent in social media as our own native language, so while you may not think to include it on the skills section of your resume, it’s important that you do. These skills may feel universal, but they are incredibly marketable!

Be purposeful with your wording

It is possible to describe each of your past work experiences in a way that emphasizes the aspects that are relevant to your current job search. For example, I am pursuing a career at a book publishing house, but some of my work experience includes being a preschool teacher and being a sales associate at a retail store. Until I had more recent, relevant work experiences, I had to include these on my resume, so I made sure to describe my employment using adjectives that apply to both the work I was doing and the work I am pursuing. My works as a preschool teacher required strict organization, collaboration with colleagues, and working under pressure. My work as a sales associate required attention to detail flexibility, and eagerness in the workplace. Even if all the tasks you were responsible for at your previous jobs are not relevant to the work you are applying for, relevant skills appearing throughout the course of your work experience make your resume look promising and consistent. So before you’re ready to delete something from your resume, see if there’s a way you can present it that will strengthen your application.

Seek out resume-bolstering opportunities

Now that you’ve reworded your previous employment so that it’s relevant to the work you wish to pursue, you may be wondering how to add some more relevant and current experience to your resume. There are a great number of opportunities you can seek out t0 bolster your resume without taking too much time away from your studies.

On campus there are plenty of employment opportunities, and working at one of the libraries or in one of the academic buildings is a quick way to gain office experience. You can also reach out to your favorite professor to acquire a Teaching Assistant (TA) position, or even a Research Assistant position if you’re interested in a professor’s subject of study. A way to gain relevant experience without leaving your dorm room is to seek out opportunities to run social media for a club you’re a part of, or a local Instagram page that you find interesting. If you’re trying to build writing experience, there are tons of online magazines and blogs that take open submissions or hire regular writers. These jobs often won’t pay, but are a great way to start building a writing portfolio. (Tip! Once you have a few pieces published, or if you already do, be sure to add to your resume that you having writing samples available upon request.) There are writing experiences on campus as well, such as through The Statesman, where you can compose opinion pieces or cover events specific to your interests.

Through your resume you are marketing yourself to the world of your desired profession. My best advice is to know your skills, know your values, and emphasize them on your resume as much as you can! Once you look over your resume and truly feel that it is a reflection of yourself and the skills you have to offer, you know you’ve got a great start. For further help, be sure to visit the Career Center, where they’ll look over your resume and cover letter with you and even do a mock interview. Best of luck Seawolves!

Image from NBC’s Friends.

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