Outlandish claim time: This post will make you a million dollars and will make your life 600 times better. Yup – I even sent my friend Chris to the future to verify this and he said I was totally right.
Okay, maybe that’s not true. But. I will say that this post does have the potential to get you closer to those two things.
This post is about making yourself the most irresistible candidate possible for any internship or job you might be going for. It’s about standing out from the crowd and being impossible to overlook.
Think about it: you might be incredibly freaking awesome at whatever it is you’re studying. You might be a badass programmer, or know the details of every court case since 1894, or have a ton of experience in forensic accounting. You know that you’d kick ass doing the job you want – but the problem is that other people aren’t so aware of that talent.
That’s why you can’t rely on your talent and raw experience alone to stand out. Other factors count, and they count a lot.
In this post, I’ll detail not 2, not 87, but 5 things you can do (or at least begin) today that will help you to become an irresistible hire. Remember, the key here is doing them – just reading over this post won’t get you anywhere. Challenge yourself to actually do a few of them now.
1. Tailor Your Resume and Get It Critiqued.
I’m sure everyone reading this article currently has a resume, unless you’re a brand new freshman – in which case you’ll probably be forced to create one in an intro class sometime soon.
Most people think a resume is just a list of all the jobs you’ve had, your education, some achievements, and contact information. At a base level, that’s sort of correct. However, just leaving it at that would be foolish – so I won’t leave it at that!
Your resume should be job-specific.
This means that the resume you use to apply for a Resident Assistant position should not be the same resume you use to apply for a position as a web developer. As long as you have enough experience, you should always prominently feature the most relevant positions to the job you’re applying for on your resume. If it’s a web development position, list your web development experience right at the top.
The only exception to this rule is if you’ve had a slightly less relevant position that way more impressive than the most relevant one. If you interned at Google last summer, that should go above an on-campus web development position you had freshman year. Is it a little less relevant? Sure. Will it attract a recruiter’s eyeballs like a Valve announcement attracts the eyeballs of my friends? You bet.
Of course, if you’re a freshman or don’t have much job experience, you might not have enough to vary up your resume for specific jobs. That’s fine – go ahead and list everything. Once you start getting more experience, then you’ll be able to tailor things.
Another word about tailoring – if you’re in a creative industry such as graphic design, don’t feel like you absolutely have to stick with a plain old black-and-white resume. While those are great when you have to upload a resume for an online job application, having a creatively designed print copy can make you look really cool at career fairs. Check out this amazing example:
You should also make sure your resume actually looks good and is readable. Here are a few guidelines:
- One page is ideal – use no more than two
- Never use less than a 10.5pt font size
- Make sure headings are clear
- Pay attention to line spacing
Lastly – and this is important – make sure you talk about accomplishments when listing your experiences on your resume. Instead of just putting down bullet points of your duties for each job, try to list quantifiable things you actually did. It’s much more impressive.
“Your resume should list your accomplishments – not just your duties. Talk about the things you actually did.” Tweet This
Ok, there is one other thing you should do…
Get your resume critiqued by a pro.
Even I’ll admit that I’m not perfect at designing resumes. My resume was pretty good when I first made it; however, after getting it critiqued I realized that I definitely had improving to do.
Luckily, resume critiques usually come free for college students. That’s because you have career offices at your school – and these are places you should visit often. More likely than not, you’ll have a career counselor right on your campus who can go through your resume with you and tell you what to fix. Take advantage of this!
2. Build a Personal Website
Ok, so now you’ve got a kick-ass resume. Great! But wanna know what? It’s still just a static piece of paper.
That static piece of paper is your base-level requirement. You can do even better by having something even more accesible and dynamic – and a personal website is both of those things.
Having a personal website gives you a place on the web where people can see all of your accomplishments – a place that doesn’t get outdated. It’s also not boring – you can design a website to look a cool as you want. There isn’t a requirement for websites to look a certain way.
Most of all, having a personal website makes you legit. How many college students can put a URL at the top of their resume? How many can refer someone to all their work by saying, “Oh, just hit up www.myname.com playa” – not many!
If you want to stand out, be one of those few.
Here’s an awesome example of a personal website, made by my friend Jordan:
I can hear some of you right now…
“Bro, building a website is too hard. Only geeks who know XSLT and all the rules to Prismatic Magic the Gathering can do that – I don’t have time to learn all that stuff brah, it’ll interfere with my swag.”
Guess what? Building a personal website isn’t hard. Are you a person smart enough to get into college? If so, you can build a personal website in less than a day.
With the rise of WordPress, building a website no longer requires coding skills. As long as you’re willing to follow directions and invest a few hours of time, you can quite easily get yourself on the web.
Want to build your own website? Well, lucky for you… I’ve written a comprehensive guide that’ll show you exactly how to do it. Head on over to my post, The Ultimate Guide to Building a Personal Website, and get started!
Oh, and here are a few example of College Info Geek readers who have already built their own sites that you can use for inspiration:
- Aaron Couch
- Anna Ellenberger
- Martin Boehme
- Ransom Patterson
- Thomas Frank (yup, I read my own site)
Check these sites out, and then get started on your own! By the way, if you comment with your URL, you just might get it mentioned here on College Info Geek like Jordan’s was in this article 😉
3. Create Your Own Business Cards
Some people think business cards are obsolete now. In regards to actually getting your contact information into people’s hands, they sort of have a point; it’s much easier to just type someone into your phone than it is to keep a business card.
However, that’s no reason to skip getting your own business cards. Why?
Again… They make you look legit.
Looking legit and standing out are ridiculously important. For anyone who’s read The Game, you know the reason Mystery started wearing flashing lights, crazy hats, and huge platform shoes with fireworks shooting out of them (ok, maybe that one isn’t true).
He referred to it as peacocking, which is basically a different way to say standing out. People who blend into the crowd don’t get noticed by super-attractive girls at the club, and they also don’t get noticed by recruiters at career fairs. You can save yourself a lot of work in the initial step of getting someone’s attention if you already stand out.
“Business cards aren’t for giving out contact info. They’re for looking like a badass.” Tweet This
Looking legit makes you stand out. So get some business cards and make yourself look legit.
Important caveat: You should probably be legit before you go giving out business cards. I’ve always said that it’s important to do shit and get experience right from the get-go, but it bears repeating: you should have a body of work behind you and something to offer if you’re giving out business cards. Don’t make a card that just says “Joe ‘Swag-Lips Morrison, Freshman in Pre-Business”. You’ll look like a tool.
Thanks to Reddit user HumanoidCarbonUnit (who I think actually runs r/college) for reminding me to include this bit.
Now… on to what your cards should look like…
Everyone has met someone who handed them a “business card” that was no more than a white scrap of paper with some contact info typed in Times New Roman and a company logo. These kinds of business cards suck.
We’ve already established that business cards are more for establishing yourself as a badass than they are for giving contact information. For that reason, your business cards need to look awesome.
Now, while there are some excellent templates out there, I still recommend designing your own. Why?
- Your card is unique
- You actually learn some design skills along the way
As with the personal website thing, I’ve got you covered here. To design your own professional business cards, my top recommendation is to use one of these templates from Canva. They give you an aesthetically pleasing starting point that you can customize as much (or as little!) as you want.
4. Start Learning to Be an Effective Communicator
Go back and take a look at some of my early articles, such as this one on time management. Notice anything different about it compared to this article?
College Info Geek has become pretty successful in the two years it’s been online, and part of the reason I’ve been able to achieve that success is because I’ve learned to be a more effective communicator when writing blog posts.
Now, those old articles are still awesome since I’m the greatest blogger ever known to man and can do no wrong, but still… they’re quite clearly inferior.
As I’ve progressed, I’ve learned some techniques that enable me to write better, more engaging articles. If you’ve noticed, I’ve started writing paragraphs that are usually only a sentence or two long. I try to never let a paragraph be more than five lines long, as I’ve learned that white space is really important.
I’ve started using more headings to break things up.
…and I also vary my content by putting lots of pictures, videos, quotes, and other random crap in it. This stuff makes it more interesting, and as a result it becomes more likely that a reader will read the whole article and remember more.
So basically, when I post a stupid picture, it isn’t only because I’m an idiot. That’s only part of it. The other part is that I realize it’s a more effective way to communicate my message than just a big block of text.
You should learn to communicate effectively as well.
Learning to be an effective communicator will get you incredibly far in life. Communicating effectively will result in people giving you more of their attention and remembering what you say more.
It’ll also make you a more likable person – if someone knows they won’t have to struggle to understand you, they’ll be much happier to listen to you and you’ll leave a much better impression.
On the other hand, communicating ineffectively – being long-winded, notifying people about things too late, not empathizing, etc. – will make people want to hit you with a hammer.
So, how does one become a more effective communicator? Well, that’s a question that I could literally write a book to answer – there’s so much that could be said. However, there are a few big ideas I’d like to get across here before I start that book, so let’s get right into it.
Here are 7 tips for becoming an effective communicator:
- Be concise. Respect other peoples’ time and attention spans, and try to communicate things a quickly as you can (without rushing)
- Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. That way, you can tailor what you say in a way they’ll agree with more – plus, you’ll be able to see your ideas from multiple viewpoints.
- Learn the rules and etiquette for whatever medium you’re communicating through. Learn how to write a good essay, a good email, a good speech, etc.
- Start practicing your public speaking now. Yes, it’s scary, but eventually you’re going to have to speak in public. You’ll be way better off if you have some experience and confidence under your belt. I highly recommend taking a speech class in college – even if it’s not required. I also recommend reading Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker.
- Learn to effectively listen. Actively pay attention to the other person and try to formulate responses that show them you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Communicate things at the appropriate time. Make sure to get messages out early enough for people to respond.
- Recognize other people. Marcus Sheridan is excellent at doing this – when I was at BlogWorld, I attended several sessions and his was the absolute best because he took the time to recognize people, ask them questions, and make them feel special.
You know, Marcus was so freaking good at communicating effectively that I just have to give you an example. Here’s an video of one of his speaking sessions:
Notice how he uses varied pitch, walks around the room with purpose, and calls out people to contribute to the presentation? All these techniques make Marcus’ presentations incredibly effective and engaging. You literally can’t fall asleep at one of his sessions – even if you got bored, he’d call you out and get you back into the game.
Now, maybe you won’t be doing marketing sessions at big conferences, but you can still learn from these techniques and utilize them when you communicate in any situation.
“Learn to communicate effectively and you’ll make a much better impression when you meet recruiters.” Tweet This
And as you know, career fairs and interviews both fall under the category of “any situation”. Learning to be an effective communicator will make you approximately 5,402 times more likely to get the job or internship you want.
5. Create a Portfolio of Your Best Work
If you’ve been in college for more than a year or two, odds are you’ve complete a few projects that would do well to show off your skills. Between your classes for your major, jobs you’ve had, club projects, and things you’ve done for fun, you probably have a backlog of cool stuff.
Where is it all now though? Most people keep all their projects in a folder, or tuck them away in some archive directory on their computer. When interview time roles around, they might mention something about those projects – but they don’t actually have anything to show.
That’s why you need to create a portfolio.
Instead of socking away all your work on your hard drive, collect it together and find a way to display it for all the world to see. I’d recommend utilizing a method that lets you bring it up wherever you are – which means it should be online.
There are several options for making an online portfolio, all with their own pros and cons. Let’s go over a few, starting with the best one:
Put it On Your Personal Website
Yep, the absolute best place for your portfolio to live is your personal website. Think about it – if you want to show someone all your best work, what’s the most classy way to do it?
That’s right – by saying, “Just slide on over to www.myname.com playa!”
My friend Steven has a great portfolio on his personal site that shows off his design and engineering projects:
With this now set up, Steven can just direct people he meets to his website and they’ll be able to see all the major projects he’s worked on.
Through the portfolio, he can paint a pretty good picture of his skills and interests, which will help him tremendously when he’s looking for new opportunities.
Here’s another great example from one of the contributing writers here:
Martin actually integrated his portfolio right into his site’s main navigation, making each major project a tab you can click on.
From a bird’s-eye view, you can see his involvement in College Info Geek and his music. If Martin has an interview in the future and wants to show off his work, he can easily bring up his website and just click each tab. Easy as pie.
So, how do you get a portfolio on your website?
Chances are you’re not a web developer, so you probably don’t have the wizard-level coding chops to fuse WordPress with Twitter Bootstrap and integrate a portfolio into your site’s main navigation. If you do, you’re probably Martin Boehme.
Luckily, you don’t need to know how to do that. Lots of WordPress themes come with built-in portfolio templates, so all you need to do is find one that you like and set it up!
“You can always tell people about the work you’ve done – but it’s way more impressive if you have a portfolio and can SHOW them.” Tweet This
You can find WordPress themes with portfolio templates all over the place. If you’re looking for something free, I’d recommend the WordPress Theme Repository. If you’re willing to pay for one, you’ll find better offerings at places like ThemeForest.
Other Online Portfolio Options
While having your portfolio on your website is the best option in my opinion, other ways do exist. Here a few that I like:
Behance is a giant network for creative professionals, and I like it a lot. (Check out my slightly outdated portfolio there)
The site lets you create different projects, where you can import pictures, video, and text that show off and describe your projects. You can also network with other creatives and show off your work.
One of Behance’s coolest features, however, is it’s integration with LinkedIn. There’s actually a Behance widget available, which you can embed right in your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re a graphic designer, you should probably have a Dribbble account – even if you have a portfolio on your own website as well. Dribbble is built a bit like Pinterest; you publish your work and people can follow your account. It’s a great way to get your stuff recognized and to collaborate with other designers.
No matter how you do it, you really should have an online portfolio that you can direct people to. Don’t leave your skills to the imagination. Show people what you can really do.
Now Take Action
Alright, look – when I started writing this article, I had a list of 17 things I was going to cover. Once I got done with #5 and realized I was already past 3,000 words, I thought to myself:
“Will anyone really do 17 things?”
So I decided not to write an entire book today and leave it at five. I’ll do the other 12 later. That means…
You’ve only got five things to do!
That’s right, I’m letting you off easy for now. Do just these five things, and even without the other 12, you’ll become approximately 2 billion percent more hireable.
So go get your resume critiqued.
Take a few hours and build a personal website.
Design some business cards, sign up for a speech class, and gather your projects for your portfolio.
Do work, son!
One last thing (if you’d be so kind) – can you share this post with your friends? If you do, I’m contractually obligated to love you for at least 400 years. Just use on of the buttons on the left!