I’m serious, it’s that easy; you can fix up a working version of your resume in an hour. But you have to listen to the timer and not procrastinate. Sit down with pen, paper, and laptop and be fully present for this. Preferably your laptop should just have Google open, not 1 million tabs, because those tabs will siren call you. Don’t listen to them. If you don’t listen to this preface, then this won’t work. Yes, you’ll fix your resume, but most definitely not in 1 hour.
Before anything else, let me introduce myself.
My name’s Justine Chua, I co-founded The Border Collective (a blog about everything college kids in the Philippines need to know about the work life) with Betina Ong, and if you want to know more about us, TBC, or anything else, just click around the site. There’s a body of knowledge there that no other website has, which I’m quite proud of.
Now onto why this article exists.
I’m 21 years old, a college senior, and I’ve personally run more than 300 resume consultations in the last 6 months aka I help people present their best selves on 1 A4 when I have free time.
I’ve helped people get to Erasmus, to internships abroad, to scholarships abroad, to Oxford summer programmes, to interviews with the top MNC’s in the country, to their first internship, to their first job, and more. I fix a lot of resumes.
What I’ve realized is this: even the absolute best think they’re shitty when it comes to presenting themselves in resume format.
Nothing in school or life prepares you for that. Google is your only friend, but there’s so much information out there made for the West and not as much for the East so we end up not knowing what’s relevant to those of us here in the Philippines.
And I hate to say it, but I’ve gotten really good at fixing resumes and helping people job hunt thanks to my consulting work, the stuff I read, and the blog. (I personally think this is a stupid skill to pick up but whatever, I’m going to roll with it.)
Trust in me when I say, I’m about to drop some real talk that helps. I already know what you’re struggling with; don’t worry, your situation isn’t unique.
And as much as I’d like to help everyone with personalized advice, I really can’t. That’s why I’m writing this. For as many people to solve this problem on their own as they can.
The resume is the first hurdle, and arguably the biggest. Nothing’s more daunting than trying to condense your entire college life and career on one flimsy piece of paper. Even if your background is totally impressive.
The longer you put off starting your resume though, the scarier it’ll be. It’s just going to take up valuable brain space and whisper to you negative thoughts all hours of the day until you actually start and finish writing it.
So, silence that voice by forcing yourself to knock out a first draft in 60 minutes. Once you have that first draft down, I promise you, it’ll start improving bit by bit as you learn more about yourself.
Anyways, let’s get started. Thanks for reading and hope I write something useful for you!
Choose a template (5 mins)
Literally just google for one. Make sure it’s not the most amazing, well-designed resume on earth because then you are telling the employer that you know Photoshop. Even if you don’t ever say it on the resume. Or at the very least, you’re saying that you’re so extra, you spent a lot of time on the aesthetics of a resume.
But if you are a designer, then you really have to go all out. Showcase your talent from the get go, but remember to study the psychology behind the colors you use since it’ll prime the employers’ perception of you.
The margins and spacing shouldn’t be so big that I can write a full sentence on it. All that empty space just highlights you haven’t done a lot with your life.
Super extra bonus tip from me: Pick a template that doesn’t involve a photo. You don’t need to add your photo at all for the same reason that you should be maximizing space. It’s also silly to do so because most likely, you don’t look good in that photo since it’ll be you all stiff and formal. Fix your first impression. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot like that.
You can also use the UP, ADMU, DLSU standard template; their career offices are going to say “it has brand recognition”. I agree, it does. It also says that you’re a generic UP, ADMU, DLSU grad who couldn’t have been bothered to google for a template, even though there are more than a million out there. So the choice is yours.
Fill in your personal info (2 mins)
I vote making a professional Gmail that’s purely dedicated to job hunting and LinkedIn aka professional things. Some employers reverse google search your email to see what turns up. Ya’ll don’t want them to see your wild party pics, angry Twitter rants, or embarrassing song covers. Fix your online presence ASAP.
Bonus Tip: your email shouldn’t be a bunch of letters and numbers like firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s not memorable. Use something like email@example.com.
Personal Info Checklist: email, cell phone number, LinkedIn URL
That’s literally it. Nothing else. No address. No height or weight. No ‘single’, ‘married’, ‘in an open relationship’. Nothing irrelevant or too personal.
Delete your objective, references, and bullshit skills and interests (3 min)
[This is a generic career objective I screenshotted from a LinkedIn connection. It’s too long, all over the place, and peppered with filler words. Don’t do this.]
If you spent forever writing it, copy and paste it somewhere safe to keep it in your heart. If you haven’t started writing one, good job, you saved yourself some heartache. But in the end, a career objective is irrelevant, especially if you’re a good candidate. You’ll need to save that space to make everything relevant fit as you fix your resume.
Alternatively if you’ve done nothing with your life and cannot fill that 1 page up, please add your objective and references into it. Hide your ineptitude with a wall of text.
[Notice how disjointed it is, like something no one would ever say out loud. Don’t do this. Make sure to read aloud everything you wrote to see if it sounds human.]
For objective, there’s a right and wrong way of doing it. I’ve shown you the wrong. For references, writing that they’re available upon request is a waste of everyone’s time. Either add in their name and numbers or don’t write it at all.
For bullshit skills and interests, keep in mind this: if it is not a fact, delete it. Being a competitive golfer for 13 years is a fact; being a skilled communicator and team player isn’t.
Choose 5 things to write into it (10 mins)
List everything you’ve ever done down, and then pick just 5. I mean it, just 5. My pick is always 3 work experience + 2 co-curricular but not everyone has that. At the very least, try to add in 1 work experience that’s relevant to the job at hand. Fix up your timeline too.
Super bonus points if you can write “Published Papers” because who doesn’t want to say they’re a published author??? It also highlights that you’re analytical, collaborative, and good at condensing what you learned to share with others.
Don’t stress over remembering everything you’ve ever done; chances are that if you’ve forgotten it, it wasn’t important to your growth in the first place.
Write those 5 things down (30 mins – 6 for each)
Ah, the hardest part. I have a formula down pat for this but unfortunately, I’m not sharing that here publicly. Yet. That’s what I teach those who book resume consultations with me. I’m sure you guys can write this part down though; there are a billion resources online that tell you how to do so. Pick one and try it out to see if you feel comfortable talking about yourself that way.
This will be the bulk of your resume, which is why it takes so much time. There are at least 4 ways I can count to write up what you did and the results of those actions.
Super extra bonus tip from me: Don’t write in 1st person. No “I was in charge of handling the accounts”. And no extreme bragging that’s practically lying. Nobody is going to believe that you “singlehandedly hit the year’s fundraising target, therefore saving the org from extinction”.
(That is an actual line I’ve seen in a resume. I had to put the paper down, take my glasses off and pray for patience. Everything after the comma was unnecessary bragging on the owner’s behalf.)
Beg your honest friends to critique your resume (5 mins)
Usually an offer for free food gets them on board. Don’t ask them to critique it professionally; ask them to read it as a normal person and give you feedback on what their impression of you based on the resume is.
Did they like you? Did they feel like they want to work with you? Do they feel like it’s truthful to who you really are? Did you come off as competent?? Does the resume sound like it was written by a human being, and not a robot or desperate job-seeking Gollum-like creature?
And tell them to be super honest. Don’t let your feelings get in the way; everything they say are all just their perceptions based on a piece of paper, not on their perceptions of you as their friend.
This takes 5 mins because if your friends are as honest//brutal as I am, they’re not going to want to give you the ~real opinion~ because they don’t want to hurt you. Alternatively, if they’re super excited to shred you to pieces, do rethink your friendship with this person.
Give yourself a pat on the back for doing all of this//have a good cry at how difficult this was (5 mins)
Congrats!! Once you finished asking for feedback, sit down and rest. Don’t bother reading the feedback or re-editing right away; your brain will be fried, your emotions will be exhausted, and you will be consumed with thinking about your impending job hunt. Let yourself recharge. And don’t worry too much. At least you took 1 hour off to do the super basic things that normally takes worried job seekers a whole day.
Spend these 5 minutes thinking about how you’ll rest. Take the rest of the day off. Or if you’re like me, take 2 hours off to chill, knowing full well that you’re going to worry incessantly the whole time about the comments, so much so that once that timer runs out, you’ll immediately start working again. You know, normal thoughts.
But kidding aside, do take a break.
That’s going to be incredibly helpful before you start the editing process. You want to be well-rested and as unbiased as you can before you start rewriting. And once you’re ok, restart this whole 1 hour process but instead of writing down your first draft, spend it refocusing your resume based on the feedback you got.
And that’s it. You’ve fixed your whole resume in 1 hour.
Doing it on a deadline helps, because you’re forced into finishing it rather than on perfecting it. Number one thing I stress in resume consultations, you’re never going to pass a perfect resume. There’s no such thing as one.
You’re going to pass a great resume that highlights who you are, but that’s it. You’re never going to pass a “I’m the best person you can ever hire” resume that alerts every single company to you and has them blowing your phone up with calls and texts. To get that, you need to be famous already for your work, something I’ll talk about someday. Not impossible but highly unlikely to happen to the general populace.
Anyways, wishing you guys luck as you fix up your resumes. If you really do need help though, I’m opening up a few slots for resume consultations before school starts for me because I know how difficult it is for most people. Emotional support is an unspoken part of resume consultations, along with career advice and connecting you with job opportunities in my network.
For those of you interested in availing of some focused resume consultation time with me, check out the packages here at http://bit.ly/ResumeConsultations.
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