Eight ways to beef up your resume while studying

University students with the initiative to get ahead
© Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.com

Even if you’re a model student with a flawless record of high distinctions, good grades alone won’t be enough to attract the attention of employers when you’re looking for a job.

Employers need to know that you’re more than just a brainiac with good study habits. Ideally they’re looking for someone with the extra qualities that will make them succeed in the workplace – motivation, initiative, passion, discipline, leadership, communication skills, the ability to multi-task and a well-rounded personality. If you can manage to demonstrate these while still managing your studies, any company recruiter would do a double-take when they come across your resume.

Here are some suggestions for what you, as a student with minimal work experience, can do to give yourself that extra edge over the hordes of other students vying for entry-level positions.

Part-time work

Many students work part-time while studying – and if you don’t, you better think about getting a part-time job fast. Not only will it give you extra pocket money, it gives you your first taste of the real world of paid work and teaches you invaluable skills. Even if your part-time job isn’t related to your career aspirations, those evening shifts at Coles or McDonald’s are teaching you about customer service, taking responsibility, how to adhere to workplace rules and schedules, how to work in a team, and how to juggle competing priorities (work and study), as well as other skills such as how to handle cash or perform basic office administration. These are skills that are important in any workplace so be sure to highlight these to a potential employer.

Work experience

If you want to get experience in your area of interest, work experience positions are one of the best things you can do. You may not get paid and you can expect to do some tedious work, but you will get crucial exposure to your industry and gain valuable contacts.

In some industries, such as the competitive media and entertainment industry, starting out with work experience is pretty much par for the course. For example, most people aspiring to get into magazine publishing will try to get their foot in the door by applying for a work experience position first – and magazines are inundated with applications for ‘workies’. But if you’re persistent and show a willingness to tackle even the most mundane of tasks with verve and enthusiasm, many organisations are willing to take on students and show them the ropes.

Volunteer work

Another alternative to getting a part-time job or work experience is to do volunteer work. There are many organisations that need volunteers – hospitals, community services, aid organisations, charities, arts organisations, conservation organisations, health centres – choose something that resonates with you and that will give you satisfaction to be a part of.

Aside from the gratification that comes from making a valuable contribution to the community, having this on your resume will show employers that you have experience working in organisations as well as a willingness to give your time to something that you deem worthwhile. This will only be to your credit and will prove you to be someone with strong values and integrity. 

Student politics

Another way of demonstrating your initiative as well as leadership potential is to get involved in student politics, whether that be as a member of your SRC, students’ association or students’ union. This sort of participation will mark you out as someone with strong leadership qualities, charisma, an ability to communicate and work with others, and a willingness to stand up for what you believe in. Potential employers will know you’re no shrinking violet, and that will work in your favour for any position requiring decisiveness, responsibility, assertiveness and idealism.

Student newspaper

Writing for your student newspaper is yet another great way of demonstrating initiative and passion for something other than your next assignment. This is a particularly good idea for anyone seeking a future in journalism, publishing or other areas of the media – you’ll learn how to write to a deadline and a brief, create colourful and compelling copy, conduct interviews, and learn about the publishing process. Future employers will be impressed by your passion and dedication.


Participating in regular sport will say almost as much about your character as your athletic prowess. It reveals many qualities that are attractive to employers – discipline, the ability to work in a team, a desire for self-improvement, and a willingness to put in a big effort and endure short-term pain for long-term gain. All of these traits are just as valuable in the office as on the sporting field, and employers will want you batting for their team as well.

Hobbies and extracurricular activities

Having a hobby or regular extracurricular activity will also speak volumes about you. The fact that when you’re not working or studying you love nothing better than to play your guitar, go for bushwalks, shoot photographs or make short films will demonstrate that you are a passionate, motivated and well-rounded person – and those are qualities that most employers will want in their workplace. If the extracurricular activity is a group activity that allows you to take on a leadership or organisational role, even better.

Extra study

If you have the motivation to study an extra course, such as a short course, on top of your regular studies, you’ll blow potential employers out of the water. They’ll be gobsmacked that someone so young would have the drive and initiative to do extra studies. It could be an interest course, such as animal care or creative writing, or a course to develop your IT skills. Whatever it is, the ability to take on more study out of a drive to better yourself and gain new skills is sure to open many doors.

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