Using your academic coursework as a value-adding substitute to professional experience is a powerful strategy for early job seekers.
So a while back we were wondering, “why do students sell their education with just one line on their resume?". The employment value of having a quality education, belonging to relevant associations, and campus involvement can be much more compelling. Often times, we see students fail to use this information to make themselves more attractive to employers.
Many students will learn practical application with a certain skill in an academic setting, but not in a professional setting.
This leads to the familiar problem of “Graduated with a degree in X, but I don’t have any experience… Help me”. This is an easy problem to fix since they’ve just dedicated 4 years to learn employable skills. So in this guide, we’ll go step-by-step to see how students can use academic coursework as a value-adding substitute for professional experience. This guide will be broken down into the two components of resume construction; formatting and content.
Step One: Optimizing Resume Formatting
Bring out your existing resume, and take a nice look at it. It probably looks something like this:
Which is completely normal for a student resume but we want to be exceptional, normal is never enough when competing against hundreds of other job applicants. Proper formatting is tedious so you may be thinking “How should my resume be formatted”? Well, the answer isn’t black and white but as long as your content is easily accessible and the formatting follows most ATS optimization mechanics, you should be good to go.
This is the Rezi BETA Resume Template — a highly-optimized resume template that we’ll be using as an example for this guide. We’ve written an easy to follow step-by-step formatting guide on how to recreate the BETA template for yourself. However, adding an academic coursework section to your resume will be useless if the remaining isn’t formatted correctly for ATS.
What is ATS? Applicant tracking systems organize resumes submitted by job seekers. When you submit your resume through an ATS, it stores your resume and an entry in the database. The recruiters then search for keywords for the particular job opening. If your resume contains the keywords the employer wants, then the ATS will rank you higher in the search results which means a greater chance of being selected for an interview.
Step Two: Creating a “Relevant Coursework & Skills” Section
In this step, we’ll be integrating the “Relevant Coursework & Skills” section.
To add a line In Word, select the section heading and go to Format in the menubar. From here, you’ll make changes in Borders and Shading.
- Select the Section Header
- Select the Borders tab
- Under Setting, select Custom
- For Style, select a solid line. For Color, choose black. For Width, choose “1/2″
- In the preview area, click the Bottom Border icon to the left of the preview image
Next, make sure your sections headers use all CAPS and are bolded. Looking good. Now, all we need to do is write the content.
Step Three: Writing the “Relevant Coursework & Skills” Content
We’ll be listing the instances when you’ve used employable skills, that are required for the job posting, in an academic setting. This will show the employer that you have the correct technical skills even though you don’t have examples of application in a professional setting. It also allows you to increase ATS readability by incorporating keywords found in the job description.
The ordering of the information is consistent with the name of the section to avoid confusion when the hiring manager reviews the resume. This is the order we use in the BETA Template (you can download the template here).
Let’s Look at an Example
Let’s pretend an undergraduate economics major is applying for their first internship, as an analyst, which requires the mathematics-orientated programs STATA and MATLAB. While the student has never used the programs in a professional setting, the student has worked extensively with them in Introductory Econometrics, and Differential Equations & Linear Algebra respectively.
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