Standout Stuff for Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

By Julie Rains on 2 February 2010 (Updated 10 February 2010) 6 comments
Photo: prakhar

Deciding what to put on and leave out of a résumé can be perplexing. Professional goals should influence these decisions. But I have found that job hunters can intrigue potential bosses and land interviews based on (seemingly) irrelevant but standout stuff.

Consider including standout items in these categories, or others that differentiate you and add dimension to your professional presence:

Athletics

Marathons

Running a marathon indicates that you're disciplined, goal-oriented, and fit. Success can also convey focus, endurance, and energy.

Triathlons

Completing a triathlon shows that you're flexible enough to master multiple sports and can plan and manage transitions. Just as importantly, you enjoy challenge and camaraderie.

College Athletics

Making the roster of a collegiate team most likely means you're competitive, team-oriented, good at managing your time (handling intensive training and academics), and are willing to be coached and mentored.

Leadership

Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts) or Gold Award (Girl Scouts)

Attaining this rank or earning this top award shows that you can plan and organize a project, get support from friends, acquire resources for project funding, and oversee the execution of a project. You've probably learned plenty about bureaucracy by preparing documentation, submitting plans, getting approvals or reworking proposals, etc. Your scout dedication and prowess will resonate with those who have achieved similar status.

Greek organizations

If you've held an officer position with a sorority or fraternity in college, then you've had the opportunity to develop planning, leadership, and communication skills. You've had to figure out how to get people's attention and cooperation, promote the positive aspects of your group to university administration and area businesses, organize philanthropy projects that are fun and achieve fund-raising goals. You've probably also handled mundane tasks like creating meeting agendas and administering budgets.

Clubs, community groups, etc

Holding an officer position or heading a committee can illustrate leadership, organization, people-motivation, and presentation skills as well as specific skills, such as event planning, recruitment, and program planning depending on your assignment.

Personal Development

Study Abroad

Studying in a foreign country shows that you can adapt to a new environment; and, most likely, appreciate cultural differences and speak a foreign language. Cross-cultural skills are especially valued in organizations with a diverse workforce and global customer base.

Adventure

This means participating in things like some form of wilderness-type adventure such as hiking the Appalachian Trail or joining a mountain-climbing expedition. Taking part in one of these trips can reveal that you are able to get things done with limited resources, and respond quickly and soundly to emergencies or unusual situations.

Business Owner

If you've run your own business or generated income from a sideline, then you've demonstrated management capabilities (or self-management skills). And, you might reveal creative talents in the areas of photography, writing, or graphic design, or business knowledge of sales, sourcing, purchasing, and shipping techniques.

These activities and accomplishments can be included in your résumé or LinkedIn profile, but they don't have to be the most prominent items. A brief mention in a section entitled "Activities" or "Interests" with selected items is fine. If you have loads of accomplishment-laden experience and don't see the need to showcase your depth through these outside interests, you can make brief references; or, if you are getting started in your career, then a one- or two-line explanation can illuminate skills gained through these efforts.

Business owners who are looking for a full-time job and plan to continue running the business might position this section as "Additional Experience" or "Freelance Experience." Or, if you've been unemployed for a while, put this experience first to show that you've been busy while waiting for the right position.

Some career experts condemn the practice of mentioning personal activities as unprofessional and irrelevant. However, résumés in Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Transitions and Resumes for the Rest of Us (books that contain samples of my work) do mention outside activities, such as "Avid golfer with multiple tournament championships in amateur competition" and "United Way - Volunteer Campaign Coordinator" to show dedication to excellence and community involvement. And, in Dan Schwabel's Student Branding Blog, Dan Klamm champions the value of promoting involvement in student organizations (including Greek organizations). His rationale reflects my thoughts: not every HR recruiter or hiring manager will find these personal items appealing but many decision-makers will make an instant connection and recognize your talent.

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Guest's picture
Sushi

As a recent college graduate, I have some of these things on my resume (extracurriculars of which I was president and very involved in, research, etc). Unfortunately, nearly nine months and 600+ job applications later later it doesn't seem to have made a difference. If I remove it, though, then my resume is nearly empty, so I'm at a loss.

Guest's picture
Robert

I love the athletics angle, especially triathlons, marathons, etc. Not only does it give your profile a little personality, it also shows prospective employers that you're conscious of your health and challenge yourself outside of work.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the comments; the sports angle is one I like and is suitable for a variety of ages.

Graduating during a recession is tough. I spent my entire senior year looking for a job and finally landed one the following October (13-month search); most of my friends opted to go to graduate school. I especially enjoyed the tips from the Student Branding Blog; covering coursework (specifically presentations and group projects) for example is another technique to add depth and something I've found to be helpful. Obviously, this is one aspect of the entire process.

Guest's picture

I regularly review resumes, interview candidates, and make hiring decisions. While not an expert, I do have over 5 years experience doing this, and have worked with a lot of other vastly more experienced "hiring decision makers" as well.

There very much are people who read resumes, see these extra types of activities and think "This woman will be more focused on training for triathlons than her work." Or "All they'll be doing is getting a paycheck for their next vacation."

Maybe these are or are not valid interpretations, one should just be aware that people out there do have them. And by putting things of this nature on your resume you are taking a risk.

This might be great things to have as a new graduate (though ideally you were volunteering and had on-campus jobs, in addition to at least one summer internship). The more years of experience, the less and less space these things should take up on your resume.

If more traditional resumes haven't been working, then these seem like great ways to put some more flavor and personality into a resume. But if these are the central component of a resume, then that's the best signal that one needs more experience.

If you can't get hired, go volunteer. Organizations are dying for more help these days. These are ways to bolster your resume and gain experience.

If you're a technical person, there are a lot of places who would kill for your skillset. I'd also recommend a pet project to develop some "something" to showcase your skills.

And of course, starting a blog to write about your skills or expertise is always a good path to take.

Guest's picture
Guest

Another great article on how to make your resume more attractive! http://blog.learnvest.com/workplace/getting_a_job/making-the-most-of-a-t...

Julie Rains's picture

You do have to be careful not to convey that you'll be so busy working your business, working out, etc. that you can't focus on your job -- which is why I recommended a brief mention. Over the 15 years or so of working with clients, I have found that many consistently differentiate themselves with these tactics. But as I mentioned, not all are attracted -- the idea of course is that the employers who suit you will be attracted to you.