Why Our Resume-Building Culture Isn’t Enough

Why Our Resume-Building Culture Isn't Enough-1
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What is the big piece of advice they tell you in high school in order to get into a good college?

What is one of the biggest tips they tell you in college in order to get a good job?

“You need to build your resume. You need to do impressive things to put on your impressive piece of paper to show your impressive employers that you’re impressive enough to hire.”

I didn’t realize this until recently, when another member of one of my college organizations mentioned how hard it is to find passionate contributors to arts and service related groups at a STEM school. We are a very tech-oriented university and our students don’t always see non-professional, non-technical groups as beneficial, electing instead to spend their time with things better known for “building up their resume.”

He was right. We have very much become a resume-building culture. We do things solely to fill that *one* piece of paper. All we care about is being better than everyone else in a recruiter’s eyes so that we can move on to “bigger” things.

Well, hey, guess what.

You aren’t special.

You aren’t better than everyone else, despite what you may have been told.

It honestly won’t matter at the end of the day how many fancy organizations you joined if you weren’t passionate about or truly involved in them. They won’t matter if you didn’t put your heart and soul into what you were doing. They won’t matter if they didn’t change how you see the world, if they didn’t make you a better person.

If you’re a mechanical engineer and you love robots, by all means join the group that builds robots. But if you’re also a mechanical engineer who loves writing or music or art, don’t forgo those other awesome organizations because you think they won’t get you as far in the engineering world.

Because they will.

The arts can give you something math and science won’t always provide. Similarly, math and science can build you in ways the arts don’t have the ability to. In order to be a well-rounded employee, you need a well-rounded resume, a well-rounded set of experiences, and to be an overall well-rounded person.

When you apply yourself to something, you show commitment. You show your leadership, organization, ability to interact with people, and general soft skills, all of which are super important in the workplace. It doesn’t really matter what you do as an extra-curricular as long as you’re invested. Some of the things I’ve been asked about most on my resume actually aren’t directly related to my major at all; in fact, interviewers have asked about this blog instead of my past few internships so often. They hear about similar work experiences all the time, so having this more right-brain-oriented activity is something new, different, and will convey a different side of you most people in the STEM world simply don’t have to show.


“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step


We put our resume on such a high pedestal and, while it certainly is important, it does not define us. We spend our lives doing all of these great things, which can’t all be accurately represented on a good resume. That being said, we focus on all of the little, technical details that we can articulate to make us seem super smart and, again, impressive. We get caught up in the obvious resume fillers that we end up neglecting all of the other incredibly beneficial organizations that we may be much more interested in and dedicated to. We spend so much time thinking about the future and how we can steamroll to the top, that we often forget to take time for the things that really matter:

Serve others.

Spend *screen-free* time with those you love.

Go to a lecture.

Adventure with friends.

Write your heart out.

Perform in a recital.

Do things because you care about others. Do things because you care about yourself and they make you happy. Do things just because you can.


~What extra activity do you do with passion?

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