Don’t Downplay This Section on Your Resume
What should I put under relevant work experience on my resume? Can I list unpaid positions, such as an internship, externship or clinical?
We often get these questions from students and new graduates. While you might not think of an internship or a clinical like a “real job,” it is in fact a valuable stepping stone in your professional development. These experiential learning opportunities allow you to put your knowledge and skills to the test, as well as develop the technical and soft skills that will help you grow and advance in your career.
In today’s competitive job market, relevant work experience can give you an edge over other applicants, get you the interview and even land you the gig.
Here are our tips for listing your work experience on your resume:
1. Choose your subheadings wisely
Many new graduate resume templates have a section for professional experience at the top, followed by education, volunteer work or extracurricular activities. You don’t have to follow this one-size-fits-all approach, however.
For example, if you are just entering the workforce, you might not have a lot of direct professional experience. You might want to showcase your academic accomplishments, internships, and volunteer work first, rather than a summer job you had years ago. If you are in the midst of a career change, your most recent position might not be relevant to your next desired role.
A less-restrictive subhead might read “Relevant Experience,” under which you can list professional experiences in addition to the extracurricular activities and volunteer work that makes you a good fit for the position. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Only list your most relevant experiences
You don’t need to list your entire work history. Instead, focus on the experiences that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for an RN position, you should certainly list the clinical sites you worked at as a nursing student. If you held a leadership role in a student organization, such as the Student Nurses Association, be sure to list that as well. Maybe you also participated in student-led community initiatives, such as educating the elderly on fitness and wellness. That counts, too!
3. Call out key accomplishments
You should include a short description under each position. Here, you want to avoid simply listing the duties or expectations of your previous roles, and focus on showing the results and the value you brought to an organization.
If you can quantify those results in any way, you should. Here are some examples of how you can show your impact in a quantifiable way from Glassdoor:
- Number of team members you’ve led
- Number of users or customers your work affected
- Number of stakeholders involved in a project
- Number of employees you supported
4. Highlight transferable skills
Your work experience might not directly align with the position you want, and that’s okay. If that’s the case, focus on highlighting the skills you have that would help you succeed in the role. These are called transferable skills.
Employers especially value soft skills like critical thinking, communication, customer service, leadership, time management and attention to detail. For students and graduates of Herzing University, these are the P.R.I.C.E. of Success skills you learned and developed in your classes on a daily basis! Your internship, externship and clinical experience likely also provided you an opportunity to develop and expand on these skills.
How to leverage clinical/externships/internships in your job search:
Your professional, academic and volunteer experiences are more than great resume-builders – they benefit your job search in several other ways:
1. Getting your foot in the door
In some cases, successfully completing an internship could lead to a full-time offer. In fact, a survey by the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) found that 67 percent of internships in 2017 resulted in a meaningful employment offer being made to the intern. For more tips on turning your internship into a full-time position, check out this blog post.
2. Securing references
Don’t become frustrated if your experiential learning opportunity doesn’t turn into employment. Internships, externships and clinical are great opportunities to expand your professional network.
Stay connected with your supervisors and colleagues, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. They observed your work ethic and the quality of your work, and could put in a good word for you with another employer. They might also have valuable advice for you about getting started, navigating your job search and advancing within the industry.
An interviewer might ask you to talk about your strengths or a time that you overcame a challenge. The best way to answer this question is to draw on your past experiences, both as a student and as a young professional.
For example, if you believe one of your strengths is flexibility, you could talk about a time that you demonstrated flexibility at your internship. If one of your strengths is staying calm under pressure, tell a story about how your communication skills helped you minimize a stressful situation during clinical and resulted in positive patient outcomes.
Need some more help fine-tuning your resume and preparing for an interview? At Herzing, our career development coaches are available to provide career-focused support for both students and alumni. Visit our online Career Center or contact us via email.