No You’re Not Bragging And Other Tips for Creating Your Resume
To be completely honest — I do not enjoy creating my resume. The first time in particular was such a struggle. I had to figure out what to put on my resume because I did not have any “real” experience and I felt that nothing I’d done was relevant to the jobs I wanted. Writing personal essays and talking about myself was definitely not my forte (though I guess that is what I am doing right now haha). To me, it just felt unnatural and sort of like bragging. I did not grow up in a culture where we used a lot of ‘I’ statements. Every accomplishment was that of the group and could not be done without the advice or help of someone else. Explicitly giving myself credit for something just felt wrong.
To this day, I still find it uncomfortable to talk about myself or my accomplishments. I still find it strange to tell someone that I am ‘good’ at something. However, I have come to learn that there is nothing wrong with giving yourself credit for the things you have done. There is great value in identifying your abilities and worth. There is power in advocating for yourself. And if you don’t define yourself, someone else will do it for you. So no, you’re not bragging, you are simply proving your worth. If you were like me, and find it incredibly uncomfortable to talk about yourself, creating a resume is a great first step to defining who you are.
Identifying my worth and advocating for myself is something I’m still working on. Over the years I have come a long way, and I have learnt a lot. Here’s my approach to defining your worth and creating a resume
1. Listing Your Accomplishments
The first thing I do when creating a resume is to list everything I have ever accomplished. No matter how insignificant it is I make a list of everything: awards, scholarships, projects I’ve done, classes I’ve taken, and other random experiences I have had.
Don’t think about whether those experiences are relevant or not for the jobs you want to apply to and don’t worry about how it’s going to look.
While I make this list I also write up a paragraph where I explain the experience or accomplishment that I achieved as if I was explaining it to a stranger. While this might seem like a lot of work for making a resume, it will definitely pay off. Not only will this help you craft a great resume, but it will also help you focus on bringing relevant stories to interview questions, scholarship essays, and will help you celebrate how accomplished you truly are!
2. Contribution, Impact & Growth
Now that you have your list with a paragraph explaining what you did, you need to boil it down to three bullet points — What was YOUR contribution? What was YOUR overall impact? How did YOU grow? The first step to simplifying your paragraph is to focus on you. Don’t mention things about how this friend helped you or how you worked on it together. It is not relevant. This exercise is all about defining yourself.
Once you’ve done that, break it down to three areas:
1. Contribution: What did you do? Did you build a feature for an app, help high school kids with math, grade papers?
2. Impact: How did you make things better? Did the people you tutor get better grades, improve efficiency of a pre-existing feature?
3. Growth: What did you learn? Did you learn to code in a new language, become better at giving constructive criticism, learn how to work in a team?
Here’s an example:
I worked with the university’s community outreach center to start a branch of Girls Who Code in a nearby after school program. I created lesson plans along with another teaching assistant and we would go every week to the after school program and teach high school girls how to code. While we did not have the amount of retention we were hoping a few of the girls ended up really enjoying how to code and even pursued it outside of club hours. It was really scary for me because I’m not the most assertive person and had only worked one on one with students in the past.
I would boil the above paragraph to the following statements:
1. Contribution: I founded a branch of Girls Who Code and taught high school girls basic coding skills
2. Impact: I encouraged and mentored high school girls to pursue their coding interests
3. Growth: I learned how to create lesson plans, lead a team and be more assertive
3. Filter, Tweak & Filter
Now you need to figure out what parts are relevant to the job(s) you’re applying for. In order to do this, you need to figure out what is expected of the role you’re looking for. Do NOT just look at the job description. Job descriptions are often not up to date and they often don’t mention the soft skills that are important for the job. Of course if the job requires you to know Python and you’ve worked on a project using Python definitely mention it, but don’t rely on the job description completely to understand what is expected on the role. Ask people who’ve held a similar job before what they think is important to the role, look up LinkedIn profiles of people to learn about what they did, research online — everything you want to know is on the internet somewhere.
Once you know what technical and soft skills the role is looking for you can use that to figure out which experiences to include as well as how to present them.
For instance if I were applying for a Teaching Assistant Position I would highlight the following:
1. My ability to articulate at teach subject matter — I would include my experience as a tutor
2. My competency in the field (good grades, relevant projects, etc)
3. My ability to take and give constructive feedback — I would include my experience as a mentor
and so on…
If I were applying for a Project Management role I would highlight the following:
1. My ability to work in a team — I might include my experience as a Resident Assistant
2. My competency with technology (previous internships, grades, technical skills)
3. My leadership skills — I might include my experience starting and running a club
and so on…
When I did this for myself I found that I had a lot more relevant experience than I realized and I just had to figure out how to present it the right way!
4. The finer details — Presentation
Last but not least, your presentation matters. Now that you have all the relevant content you need to organize it better. Make sure you incorporate the following things in your presentation:
1. Use a single page (one side)
2. Have a readable font (10p minimum)
3. Your contact information is at the top and clearly presented
4. Your document is in PDF
If you have some space you can also mention some fun interests like sports, art, knitting, etc. for employers to get a more holistic view of who you are.
Apart from that, you can be creative with how you present and organize your content. Here are some resume templates for inspiration: https://www.overleaf.com/gallery/tagged/cv
I hope this helps you create an amazing resume and get started on the journey to identify your worth and define yourself. You’re worth more than you realize!
Dasani Madipalli is a Computer Science Senior at Case Western Reserve University. She is an incoming PM at Microsoft and is really passionate about building community, technology, art and making opportunities accessible for everyone! She hopes that by decoded her experiences and things she’s learned she can make life a little easier for others in the same circumstances. If you liked her illustrations or content follow her LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram (@dasani_decoded).