This is the first post as part of a new Graduate Assistant Blog Series featuring advice and perspectives from graduate students working in Career Services.
There is no platonic ideal for a resume. The pantheon of strong resumes contains a multitude of fonts and font sizes, line spacings, and bullet formats, although, at least in the United States, essentially just one size (8.5” x 11”). In just a few weeks of reviewing resumes for Wharton undergraduates, I have not seen even two documents that look like they were taken from a pre-built Microsoft Word template. Most importantly, however, there is no one perfect resume even for a single candidate, particularly one that is exploring roles in more than one field.
As a junior at The Wharton School nearly ten years ago, I did not have a clear idea as to what I wanted from the “all important” Junior summer internship. And so, like many students, I opted for a scattershot approach; throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. I applied to consulting jobs, investment banking roles, and hedge fund opportunities (and even one technology position, that I was in no way qualified for). By the middle of the OCR process, I had secured interviews with a consulting firm, an economic consulting firm, a boutique investment bank, and a bulge bracket investment bank. The spaghetti stuck, but why?
I am not great at networking. I have probably secured my full-time positions post-Wharton (undergraduate) and post-Wharton (MBA) despite my networking efforts. What I did – and what every student can do – is to sell a customized story for each prospective employer. During that OCR-dominated fall and winter (yes, the process used to actually occur during junior year), I had multiple versions of my resume; one geared for consulting jobs, one positioned for banking, and yes, sadly, even one aimed at the aforementioned tech opportunity. As with many juniors, I did not have enough professional experiences to pick and choose which opportunities went on individual versions of my resume, but I was able to tailor the content to the readers. For consulting jobs, I emphasized collaboration and strategic thinking, and for investment banking, I focused on analysis and presentation skills. There were maybe 25 words that separated the two versions, but it still helped to weave a narrative that would better position me in each field.
A resume is not merely a reflection of what one has accomplished. A resume is a tool that helps craft a story and appeal to the interviewers and recruiters. Just as applicants hone a story in preparing for an interview, showing how the combination of previous experiences and personal interests makes them a great fit for the role, so too should students customize their resumes and ensure they will resonate with prospective employers.
Remember: It is not “one person, one resume.” It is “one job, one resume.”