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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2016

Identifying and Communicating Your Skills From College
to Career: Part II

Hilarie Longnecker, MEd, and Paul Hettich, PhD, DePaul University (IL)
View this issue in PDF and Digital formats.

In the Fall 2015 issue, we discussed methods for identifying your skills and developing plans to close your skills gap. Now, we turn your attention toward marketing yourself to potential employers. Through your coursework, you have gained important knowledge, but employers want to know that you can also apply it in the workplace. Your ability to do so is represented by your proven skills. You must clearly and convincingly communicate your skills to employers by way of presenting solid evidence whether in portfolios, interviews, or resumés. This article focuses on the strategic resumé.
Your resumé should be more than a list of degrees and previous responsibilities. Instead, it should serve as a strategic marketing tool, offering clear evidence of your ability to fill an employer’s needs. In short, it should detail past accomplishments in which you made good use of the skills the employer desires in their candidates. There is no one right formula or structure best suited for every candidate’s resumé. Be strategic in selecting what you include and how you present it in order to highlight your top accomplishments. Tweak your document for each job application to best match yourself to that employer’s needs. The sample resumé in Figure 1 is intended to illustrate possible content and structure—not to be used as a template. As such, rather than rules, what follows is a discussion of points you should reflect on in crafting your unique document.
Your Header
Include your name and professionally minded contact information. Consider your e-mail address and outgoing voicemail message; do they convey professionalism? Street addresses, although traditionally included, are becoming more optional for security reasons, especially when posting your document online.
Objectives and Summaries of Qualifications
The sample resumé does not include an objective or summary of qualifications because these elements are optional. If included, design an objective specific to the position at hand. For example, write “To obtain the position of X, in which I may contribute A, B, and C,” where A, B, and C are the skills that make you most qualified for the position. The rest of the document will serve to prove that you possess these skills. A summary of qualifications can take the format of three to five bulleted statements of your most relevant skills, quantifying your length of experience in each.
Education
For each degree, include the institution, location, and full degree title, as well as your GPA if it is above a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Beyond noting your earned or expected degrees in reverse chronological order, you might also include

study abroad to demonstrate intercultural competencies,

course projects where they replicated internship level projects that allowed you to demonstrate pertinent skills, and/or

relevant coursework in the case of internship applications where it is important to show how far along you are in your studies.
Experience
Avoid rehashing your work experience through a simple list of duties. Instead, communicate the occasions when you successfully employed the skills a particular position requires. Be selective in what positions and demonstrated skills you include, as well how you present them.
Organize your experiences (e.g., paid, volunteer, internships) so that the most relevant positions are grouped in a section closer to the top of your resumé, while retaining reverse chronological order within each section. These sections can be labeled “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience” as the sample resumé shows, or can be more specific (e.g., “Research Experience,” “Program Development Experience”) so that they readily appeal to your audience.
For each position, state your title, organization name, location (city and state), and start and end dates (month and year); highlight the most important elements (i.e., bold, italicized, or underlined font). Regardless of how you format this information, remain consistent throughout your document.
View the bulleted statements that follow each position header as accomplishment statements. Crafting them can be the most challenging part of designing your resumé, but this formula can help:
  action verb + accomplishment (how you demonstrated a desired skill) + outcome (where specific emphasis is warranted)
The action verb should preview the skill to be highlighted. When feasible, your statement should tell a complete story by answering the who, what, why, and how of the accomplishment. Quantifying your work offers additional context and makes your statement come alive for your reader.
This structure enables you to move from a relatively weak statement:

Duties included explaining services to new clients
To a much stronger skills-based accomplishment statement:
Oriented more than 30 clients each week via face-to-face counseling and the provision of appropriate program brochures 
Depending on the relevancy of the particular skill set, you might add an outcome to convey the impact of your work. For example, “ensuring a clear understanding of how services could best meet individual needs” could round out the above statement.
In this example, the skills conveyed include one-on-one communication (face-to-face counseling), needs assessment (selecting the right materials to provide), and time management (given the number of clients seen). When you tailor your resumé to a position by cross-checking the skills (and action verbs) included with those noted in the advertisement, you will be more likely to gain the consideration you are after.
Additional Options
Although the sections discussed above are the most commonly employed in a strategic resumé, remember to tailor your document to communicate your most relevant and pride-worthy skills. Additional skills (namely technology and languages), professional development (e.g., conferences, certifications, and organizations such as Psi Chi), presentations, and publications are all possible inclusions. The only rule here is that each element included should strengthen the argument for your candidacy.
Final Comments
A summary of the most important skills employers seek, described in the Fall 2015 Eye on Psi Chi, include oral and written communication, working in teams, ethical judgment and decision making, critical and analytical thinking, applying knowledge and skills, problem solving, organizing and evaluating information, innovation and creativity, changing technologies, working with numbers and statistics, and problem solving with diverse individuals (Hart Research Associates, 2015). Examine our sample resumé and try to locate at least one skill set embedded in each statement; other skills may also become apparent. Your abilities and skills are embedded in your experiences (and vice-versa); you must extract and articulate the skills from your experiences and express them on your resumé. This two part series identified the most important skills employers seek, described procedures for identifying them, and illustrated how to communicate skills on a resumé. Because the process of developing a strategic resumé is complex (a skill in itself), we encourage you to work closely with your career center and faculty mentor.
Reference
Hart Research Associates. (2015). Falling short? College learning and career success. Washington, DC: Hart Research Associates. Retrieved from Association of American Colleges and Universities website http://www.aacu.org/leap/public-opinion-research
 
Figure 1 Sample Resumé 
Susan Smith    123 Main Street, Chicago, IL 12345 (123) 555-1212     susansmith@gmail.com
EDUCATION
University College, Chicago, IL
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, June 2015
Minor in Spanish GPA: 3.7 / 4.0
Study Abroad: "Examining Mental Health Services in Low-Income Communities."
Mexico City, Mexico, Winter 2014

 RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
Miller Community Services, Chicago, IL
Drop-In Center Intern, February 2015  Present

 • Engage with diverse community members, ages 11–17, creating a welcoming environment
  Conduct intake interviews with clients, recording presenting needs and providing an overview of available services
 • Schedule clients with appropriate professional staff for follow-up appointments
Laboratory of Dr. Katherine Stone, University College, Chicago, IL
Research Assistant, September 2013  June 2014

  Performed a literature review on the availability of mental health services in predominately Latino communities
  Recruited and obtained informed consent from 50 Spanish-speaking participants
  Coded recorded interviews, noting specific behaviors and response patterns
  Participated in weekly meetings with principal investigator and graduate assistants to review progress and receive training
ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE 
PetSmart, Chicago, IL
Sales Associate, June 2011  September 2013

Translated for Spanish-speaking customers to ensure product information was clearly communicated
  Trained and mentored five new associates during their first 2 weeks
 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 
University College Psi Chi Chapter Vice-President, September 2014  June 2015

Led efforts to connect membership with alumni for networking via the planning and hosting of an annual Career Night event

Communicated with faculty to source a list of research opportunities for students interested in graduate studies
Midwest Psychology Consortium, Conference Attendee, March 2014
ADDITIONAL SKILLS
Language: Fluent in Spanish
Technology: Advanced user of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint; Proficient in SPSS



Hilarie Longnecker, MEd, has over 12 years of experience in university career services. As an assistant director at DePaul University’s (IL) Career Center, she designs and delivers one-on-one and large-scale career development services through coaching, events, and resource development. She currently advises the university’s science and health-oriented students, as well as manages the center’s Peer Career Advisor Program.

Paul Hettich, PhD,
Professor Emeritus at DePaul University (IL), was an Army personnel psychologist, program evaluator in an education R&D lab, and a corporate applied scientist—positions that created a “real world” foundation for his career in college teaching and administration. He was inspired to write about college-to-workplace readiness issues by graduates and employers who revealed a major disconnect between university and workplace expectations, cultures, and practices. You can contact Paul at phettich@depaul.edu

Copyright 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


 
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Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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