Stop Trying to Build the Perfect Résumé and Start Doing What You Love

For many college students, outside involvements are driven by the pursuit of a ‘perfect résumé.’ Freshman and seniors alike strategically select many involvements to appeal to future employment and post-graduate opportunities. While there is value in receiving experience in a field related to one’s future career goals, students often get caught up in selecting activities that will ‘look good’ to employers and graduate schools.

This trend is not limited to any single major. From business to the liberal arts, students continue to pick and choose what clubs and organizations to join. However, students must realize that all business majors do not need to be in the Nittany Lion Fund and pre-law aspirants do not need to be a member of the mock trial team.

Rather, we should seek opportunities that suit our passions, whether aligned or misaligned with our future career goals. Why can’t an engineering major participate in club thespians and a nursing major join an a cappella team?

Not only does expanding our horizons in terms of involvement lead to new friendships and fulfillment, but also employers and graduate schools seek résumés that ‘stand out.’ The second that a student sits worrying about having checked off all of the boxes of an effective résumé, ranging from leadership and service to work experience, the more that he or she blends in with all other applicants.

Moreover, many of the key attributes in an applicant ranked by employers can be displayed through a wide range of involvements. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 82.9 percent of employers rate “problem solving skills” and “ability to work in a team” as the most important qualifications for college applicants. Both of these qualities, however, are not limited to career-focused activities.

Although relevant internships remain an important component for job applicants and prospective graduate students, extracurricular involvements maintain more room for exploration. Pursuing one’s passions through on-campus activities is one of the best ways to diversify your experiences while also crafting a unique résumé. Not only will you pursue your interests, but also be able to express these passions in a job or grad school interview.

Break out of the constraints of a career-tailored résumé and take a chance at the student activities fair. Find organizations that truly interest you, and your career path will follow. Your four years at Penn State will fly by — don’t waste it trying to look like everybody else.


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