You read the title right — there’s a 99% chance your resume is not good enough and never will be. But before you angrily close this email, hear me out.
In a literal sense, your resume is probably not exactly average. Either it’s better than average, or worse than average.
If your resume is worse than average, my statement in-part makes sense. Your resume is not good enough (for above-average jobs). However, you can make your resume better by landing better internships and jobs, working on high-impact projects, raising your grades, taking leadership roles, or doing anything to signal that you are a top-notch professional.
But it won’t help… your resume will never be good enough. More on that in a second.
Let’s say your resume is better than average. Awesome! But why is it still not good enough?
Just kidding… here’s the actual reason: students have the tendency to obsess over the importance of a strong resume.
It’s not that their resume isn’t good enough, rather that they don’t think it is good enough.
This leads to 2 problematic scenarios:
- Problem #1: Students with weak resumes feel like they have no chance and are doomed
- Problem #2: Students with strong resumes obsess over making it better at their own expense
If you have a below average resume, you may face problem #1. Things feel hopeless when your friends seem like they have their professional life together with multiple internships and a great resume. It’s easy to call it quits and make excuses for why you can’t turn your career around.
If you had a below-average resume but managed to turn it into an above-average resume, well… you now have an above average-average resume. Fantastic! Although, now you are a likely candidate for problem #2.
Students with above-average resumes tend to compete with themselves or their peers and make career decisions to optimize for an even better resume. Problem #2 people are literally prioritizing a piece of paper over themselves by focusing on resume optics rather than self-discovery and career fulfillment.
That’s the crux of Problem #2. Your resume will never be good enough… for you!
Your resume is not the most important document in the world. In my post How to Stop Getting Rejected From Interviews, I explained that having a strong resume is only 20% of what it takes to land an interview.
Here’s a diagram to make sure this idea sinks in.
Furthermore, once you land the interview your resume matters far less than your interview performance (especially for undergraduates). In other words, once you land the interview the playing field is level. Whoever kills the interview and leaves the best impression usually gets the offer.
So what’s the solution? It’s a bit ironic because the solution to both problems is the same.
Solution for #1 People
You are only deficient in 20% of what it takes to get an interview and ultimately an offer. Focus on…
- Building your network by reaching out to professionals (cold email, warm introductions, informational coffee chats)
- Develop domain knowledge by pursuing a topic of interest and learning about it
- Signaling “fit” for your dream job through your network, student organizations, coursework, internship work, etc.
Solution for #2 People
You are only advantaged in 20% of what it takes to get an interview and ultimately an offer. Stop wasting time plotting your next brand name internship if you’re not actually interested in it, and instead zone-in on where you want to take your career next.
- Do you want to go deeper into what you’ve done in the past or try something new?
- Make career decisions agnostic of the optics on your resume (you can usually spin your story/career path to fit the job you’re applying for)
- Work on your interview skills so you don’t drop the ball when your interviews come (nobody will care about all those great internships and leadership positions if you can’t kill the interview)
The goal is to feel confident that your resume will assist you in getting the jobs you want. Your resume won’t get you the job; you will get yourself the job.
Of course, it’s always advantageous to have a strong resume. Just don’t mold your life around the endless chase of an even better one. Focus on finding what you love, getting great at it, and landing a fulfilling and challenging job.
Regardless of whether you have a below or above-average resume, you’ve got to work hard and smart. Think about what it takes to get an interview and offer and make sure you nail every part of the formula. The ball is in your court — be smart and effective with your time.
So which problem do you face? Reply back and let me know. If you’re struggling with something else, tell me so we can figure out how to overcome your challenge!