‘What do I write on my resume if I’m not active in orgs, have no internship experience, and have a mediocre QPI/GPA?’
It’s easy to forget that not everyone has the privilege to go and be active in orgs or take unpaid / time-intensive internships. It takes a lot of time, energy, and cash to do those things, and you have my respect if you can’t, because you’re juggling being a student with responsibilities at home.
I have recently (this is December 2017) come to realize how hard it would have been for me to do a fraction of what I did, if I had to take care of my household at the same time.
A lot of people don’t realize how easy they have it if they have household help to take care of the day-to-day living problems. Or if they don’t have to deal with mental problems.
So, today’s guide is for everyone who’s just floating through life and are worried that they don’t have enough resume experience. Don’t worry, you most definitely have hidden resume value in your past.
After a lot of resume consultations and friends calling to cry that they have 0 things to put into their resume, I’ve figured out a formula of alternative things to include to your resume and how to word out your experiences to your best advantage.
Remember: the whole point of a resume is to show off the productive things that you have done with your time and frame these in a way that shows you add value to a future employer.
So, here’s a compiled list of alternatives that you can highlight in your resume, if you have no “traditional” experience aka orgs or internships. It’s also formatted into examples, like how I’d put them into someone’s resume, so that you get an idea of how to word this for yourself. Feel free to mix it up or just take it as inspiration, especially for those with creative resumes!
Huge Disclaimer: This isn’t a “do as is written or you won’t get hired” kind of thing, this is totally just based on what I’ve seen and tried out myself. And if you’re thinking, “my version isn’t as strong as these examples”, don’t worry. I wouldn’t recommend anything that I’ve never tested, so these will stand to the test.
If you have any other questions or worries, you can either email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop it anonymously at bit.ly/JobHuntingQuestions.
1. Course (both your major and minor), University, Month + Year of Graduation
BS Management major in Communications Technology, minor in History
Ateneo De Manila University (December 2017)
This is a bit obvious because this clearly has resume value, but just a reminder that as a student or a fresh grad, this should be at the top of your resume. (Fresh grads count as someone who’s graduated out of school for a year or less.)
Sometimes people put it at the bottom or under work experience, but it’s good to leave it at the top so that the recruiter immediately has some context.
This is the framework for your entire resume; everything you write after this will be colored by what your course is. The fastest way to impress people is to have all your work experience fall into 2 buckets. 1 related to your course, the other be completely different from what’s expected from your course.
Let’s say I’m Political Science but I have extensive creative skills; that gives off huge wow factor right off the bat. This means I can do research, think critically and creatively, actualize a vision, relay my message effectively, etc. The possibilities are endless for people who combine 2 kinds of strengths or skills.
Other key point, you can choose to include your QPI/GPA here, although if it’s anything below a 3.35, I personally wouldn’t include it in a resume. You can make it into Majors GPA though, so that it could get higher.
2. High school education
Immaculate Conception Academy (2000-2013)
Graduated top 5% of the batch
Was part of ADMU’s Advanced English Workshop, held by Dr. Perfecto
Miriam College High School (2007-2011)
Graduated 6th out of 150 students
Was placed in a special section for advanced math students
St. Pedro Poveda High School (2001-2014)
Graduated with Honors ; Took AP classes in Math and Biology
Definitely include any honors, awards, or your class ranking if it’s good, and any classes you took at a higher level.
Notice how much better “Graduated top 5% of the batch” sounds rather than “Graduated 20th out of 400 students”. Both mean the same thing, but percentages sound better if you’re in the 2-digit rankings.
(For everyone with a terrible ranking, same, back in ICA was 136 out of 234, which translates to top 58% of the batch.)
Story Time: When I was applying to Ateneo, the only thing I had under extra curricular activities is the Advanced English workshop Ateneo held for 10 ICAns nominated by the English teachers, the summer before senior year.
This was literally the only prestigious thing I did throughout my whole high school life. Everyone else in my class ran out of space in the extra-curricular portions of their app forms. But not everyone got into Ateneo, and not everyone who passed got into Merit English.
It’s mind blowing that I beat out a ton of people who had extensive high school org credentials with my one workshop (and with my ACET scores). So, reminder again, CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING.
The Office of Admission and Aid knew what that workshop means, but they didn’t know anything about the ICA orgs. So, never use jargon only your schoolmates would understand. Always explain everything you ever did.
3. High school clubs & projects
Webdev – Ateneo de Manila High School
- Created the club’s website
- Mentored the 2 teams sent to the Inter High School Programming Cup
I don’t know how to do this part at all because in high school, I did nothing extracurricular that was not required. The only club I was a part of was the “Go Home before 4pm” club, one that I remained a part of all the way til college.
So, how I’ve written this is just like how I would write org experience and work experience. This requires heavy contextualization and no use of jargon at all. No one outside of your school knows your clubs and orgs and events there.
Detail the top 2 things you did there to show that even when you were younger, you had this incredible work ethic, vision, or whatever it is you want to highlight in your resume!
Specifically highlight if you had a position within the club, if you had anybody working under you, if you had any tangible projects or you had a significant output for the club
4. Volunteer work (possible subheading on your resume)
Gawad Kalinga Volunteer (50+ hours)
- Painted houses and distributed food over a number of weekends from 2011-2012
Barefoot (UNICEF Philippines’ Student Arm) Volunteer
- Traveled to Zambales for a day trip, distributed health kits to a village of 250
ORSEM 2014 (Ateneo Freshmen Seminar)Secmob
- Handled and was personally accountable for a freshman block of 30 students for 2 days as a logistics volunteer
- Underwent 4 weekends of training in preparation of worst-case-scenarios
The key is to not blatantly tell your reader that you’re a good person because you spent so much of your time volunteering. If you come off loud and proud about that, they might form not-as-nice impressions of you because of your wording. Nobody likes feeling like someone else is superior to them.
Instead, you need to show that conclusion to them via the concrete effects of your volunteering.
It also helps if you have a similar advocacy in all your volunteer work. Other things you could write are “tutored underprivileged kids basic algebra for 5 Saturdays”, “organized a clothing drive in my village for victims of the typhoon”, etc. Think the sector-based orgs one-time volunteer work as basis for this.
This is another way of showing that although you may not be a part of any orgs, you still maintain an active presence at your university. Many bosses who are Ateneo alumni also expect us to exhibit being ‘a man and woman for others’ and there’s no downside to ever being perceived as an all-around decent human being.
(Bonus points if your volunteer work or advocacies are somewhat related to what you want to do in life!)
Financial Literacy Teacher
- Studied for 20 hours on how to teach the Financial Literacy (FinLit) Modules
- Spent another 20 hours teaching Financial Literacy Modules to 3 nanays enrolled in SSS program.
- Spent x hours surveying stakeholders of a community in Cavite, then presented an analysis of the results as part of my NSTP requirement.
Special Education Outreach Program Volunteer
- Interacted with special education children every weekend for x months
This part differs depending on what your NSTP was, but every single NSTP can be somehow translated into tangible resume value. You just need to be a bit creative with your wording.
Who knew NSTP would come in handy some day? The equivalence of a whole semester’s Saturdays can become a few lines in your resume, if you know how to spin it.
If you were a NSTP Faci, that’s even better because that showcases leadership skills, and problem solving skills since there was bound to be a problem you had to solve and other students to lead.
Off the top of my head, the biggest problem would be apathetic Ateneans like me. But I’m sure there were on-ground problems you had to solve without the formator present that you can highlight here instead.
6. Any sort of work experience (especially for those with family businesses)
Drug Station, Inc.
- Took inventory of new stocks that arrived at the warehouse, classified them, and shipped them out to the 3 branches every Monday for 2 months
- Balanced the books at the end of the day
- Worked the front end of the main branch by assisting customers fill out their prescriptions or by recommending to customers the best selling product to fill out their prescriptions.
Shoutout to the Chinese kids who had to ko tiam aka watch the store like I did from ages 9-15. What sounds legitimate up there can be roughly translated to “I sat in the store for 8 hours everyday and had nothing to do, so I ended up doing the clerk’s jobs. Everyday. For 6 years.”
I learned accounting early in life because my grandmother forced me to go to Iloilo every summer, precisely to ko tiam hahahahuhuhu.
There is nothing that teaches humility and patience like spending a summer working for your allowance. I hated it at the time, but it was a good way of learning the value of hard work.
7. Student Council or Government Positions (both high school or college)
Block Representative – Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila
Ateneo de Manila University (June 2013- March 2014)
- Represented 30 students and their interests during the bimonthly university-wide meetings
- Negotiated successfully for a change in test times to better suit the differing needs of my block
Student government work shows that you’re personable enough to get voted into office, while being competent enough to accomplish something while you’re there. Getting voted into a position of trust and responsibility signifies that you have the trust of people that you’ve spent a considerable amount of time with.
People skills tend to be underrated but they shouldn’t be; effective leaders get a lot done!
In La Salle, student government is the big thing there, but in Ateneo it’s orgs. So if your interviewer knows the state of Sanggu, merely writing it down in your resume won’t help. It might even harm you.
You’ve got to write down what you’ve done in your position, especially if you managed to change the way things were run in your school. If you were in high school when that happened, even better. The younger you are when you accomplished something, the more credibility you build.
If you can’t list any tangible accomplishments, at the very least getting an elected position indicates that people don’t hate you and you probably won’t piss off everybody in your new office. So, make sure to highlight that you won by the popular vote.
8. Any Study Abroad Experience
University of Southern California – Junior Term Abroad (August-December 2012)
- Took up 15 units including: Contemporary Women’s Studies, Mediterranean Archaeology, Care of Magical Creatures, Southeast Asian Island History, and Intro to Political Science
- Lived in an apartment with 7 other international students from Asia and South America
Spain Study Tour – June-July 2014
- Spent 6 weeks in Spain taking 4 intermediate language classes, 2 European business classes, and living with a host family
Singapore Management University Summer Program – May-June 2015
- Received a grade of 3.5 in Global Business Management and 3.75 in Introduction to Robotics
- Spent 6 weeks studying alongside 70 students of 13 nationalities
This goes underneath your university. Things to highlight here: foreign language skills picked up, and if you lived or studied with people of other cultures.
This is valuable to employers because a) it is a privilege to get to study abroad and not a lot of people get the chance to do it b) there is no experience more enlightening than traveling to a different country and living with people of different cultures.
Protip: You can talk about your travels, especially if you did them alone or if it was heavily planned out in advance with research and detail-oriented points. Don’t brag about seeing Italy; brag about how much effort it took for you to see all that Italy had to offer in less than 60 hours.
This is decision making and project management in its most practical form. And if you can say you never missed a train, even better, it shows that you’re punctual and conscientious.
Related: How to Fix Your Resume in 1 Hour
9. Sports/ Varsity Teams
Xavier School Basketball Varsity Team (2011-2013) – Point Guard
- Won Milo Summer Championship 2012
- Skills cultivated: Teamwork, Time Management, Discipline, Strategy
International School Manila Golf Team – Team Captain
- Won silver medal in Wack Wack Junior Golf Conference 2011
- Skills cultivated: Discipline, Leadership, Planning (for international conferences)
Poveda Debate Team (3 years)
- Competed in international debate conferences representing my high school
- Skills cultivated: Public Speaking, Researching,
Ateneo High School Chess Varsity Team – Captain
- Won gold medal at UAAP games 3 years in a row (2012-2014)
- Skills cultivated: Strategy, Leadership, Discipline
Make sure to include a few things in your description: international or national competitions won, any notable positions within your team, number of teammates if applicable, and skills cultivated by being a member of your team.
This part shows that you’re multi-faceted AND that time management is a skill you mastered early on in life. Sports and varsities also handily come in as hobbies or interests that you talk about during the interview.
Sports are also a gold mine for situations that show off your teamwork and leadership skills with immediate, tangible results.
Team players are highly valued! They know how to accomplish things with other people (and not just for individual glory) and that will always be important in the office setting.
10. Competitions (possible subheading on your resume)
Best Advertising Strategy Competition – 1st runner up
- Placed 2nd out of 30 teams (3 members in team)
- Made and presented an advertising strategy (with short storyboard for commercial and other collaterals) during a day-long workshop given by IdeaOrg
This doesn’t have to pertain to only academic or business competitions. If you’ve competed in anything that demonstrates that you are one of the best at what you do, write it down.
For example, if you’ve represented the Philippines in Competitive Race Car Driving, write that down. It might not have to do with business but it takes discipline and grit to be so good that you’re able to compete and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not including it in your resume.
Story Time: I tell the same story again and again in situational interviews. When I was 13, I won a cooking competition for 12-15 year olds by being the most inventive dish.
Everyone else was making complex dishes while I just cooked a pork chop using the leftovers in the communal ref and flash frying techniques because I was “resourceful” aka I was too lazy to prep 2 hours in advance like everyone else.
This story highlights my ability to think on the fly with limited resources, and that even when I’m at a disadvantage, I will find a way to win. And that I’ve been like this since a decade ago.
11. Particularly relevant classes taken
Relevant classes completed:
- A in Intermediate Microeconomic Theory
- B+ in Cost Accounting
- 97 in Organizational Psychology
Relevant classes completed:
- Essentials of Philippine Business Law
- Fundamentals of Production and Operations Management
- Organizational Behavior
If it’s lower than a B+, don’t include your grades.
I have nothing to write, precisely because I have a lot lower than B+. I am solid B to C+ student.
But seriously, if you include your grade in one subject, include it for all. If you choose to not include grades, then make sure that all of the classes don’t have grades.
Keep it uniform because it seems suspicious if somebody writes grades for all but one subject. That’s a dead giveaway that you didn’t do well in that class.
Key Point: Use the official name of the course instead of the course code (as in Fundamentals of Production and Operations Management versus POM 102; Cost Accounting versus Acc 101). Consult your official course curriculum when in doubt!
12. Research papers / Thesis
A Study on Recommendations for the Marketing Practices of Holly’s Milk (August – December 2015) – 135 pages of research on the milk industry and how the sports niche is an unexploited territory for milk product.
Dear seniors, if you spent a year of your life creating a 30+ page paper and defending it, it deserves to go on your resume.
If you submitted it internationally and got to speak about it at some symposium or conference abroad, even better. This leverages your research skills and ability to critically mine information.
In a world where literally anything can be googled, the people who are able to identify, connect, and analyse relevant ideas, then parlay it into a relevant paper have a huge advantage. (Those critical thinking skills that we’re always being told are the foundations of our education? Yeah, this is where it comes into play.)
I have no idea why people don’t highlight this as one of their strongest pillars for a resume. This is the literal representation of all the skills you learned in college, conveniently packaged into a study that benefits your field and society at large.
A lot of professors require research papers because it is an application of critical thinking; you need to sift through a lot of information, decide what is useful or not, and then repackage it all into a readable paper. Or do experiments, surveys, more research, and then package it into a readable paper.
This is exactly the same process to create a project presentation to your future bosses. Marketing paper, OpMan paper, PolSci paper, Theo paper; ALL OF THESE ARE COLLEGE FORMS OF PROJECT PRESENTATIONS TO YOUR BOSS.
I’ve done project presentations to a vice presidents of multinationals and the amount of information I had to go through to decide on what to present is akin to having 80 different sources for a research paper. Once you get used to it from school, it feels like nothing in the work place.
13. Major Group Work
Political Science Class Project – GK Tandang Sora
- Interviewed stakeholders about issue to do with ownership of land (residents, barangay officials, GK representatives, previous landowner, lawyers, village council, etc.)
- Presented results in class within the context of power struggle and examining how real-world decisions are made
- Spent total of 15 hours interviewing different stakeholders
- Worked with 3 groupmates for 1 semester
Development Psychology Service Learning Project
- Worked with a Home for the Aged to address needs of senior citizen residents based on Developmental Psychology principles
- Spent a total of 12 hours on site to get to know the residents and address their needs
- Gifted the residents with a kitten in order to mitigate loneliness, especially during the grieving process
This is just like research papers and thesis only you write the concrete outputs of your project, not just the paper you wrote about.
Pro Tip: This is also the #1 place to pull experiences from when you’re being interviewed. especially when asked questions about how you work in a group and what role do you play.
It’s important that you indicate how much time you spent on the project, how many people you were in the group, and some sort of final output. A lot of your work even in the ‘real world’ will still be group word, so reminding the recruiter that you’ve had experience working with others to get something done is always a good thing.
14. Skills (possible subheading on your resume)
There are many many many skills that you can include and the list is literally endless. But in the interest of a resume highlighting your best skills, you really should just limit yourself to the top 5 skills that you have and can easily talk about based on past experiences.
Typically, I start with the computer skills because we’ve gotten to the point that 90% of work is done on a laptop and like it or not, the expectation is that millennials have basic computer skills.
After that, I add foreign languages spoken (only if you remember at least the basics just in case it turns out your interviewer speaks the language too!!) Then, depending on the job I’m applying for, I’ll include the skills that seem relevant.
ITM is an excellent skills mine, so try your best to take it seriously. I didn’t, unfortunately, but never fear, I found an alternative for all of us!
Microsoft Virtual Academy has online courses on Excel and Word where you can get a certificate to back up your “proficient in Word and Excel”.
For another example of how to pick which skills to write down, I’m into writing freelance, so I’ll include:
Relevant Skills: Public Relations, Social Media Management, Blogging
14.5 Anything else you can think of can go on your resume
This is supposed to be a guide. By no means is this definitive. If there’s something that’s not written here, but you think is relevant, go for it! My advice would be to make sure whatever else you add is either relevant to the job, or shows off your skills in some way.
For example, The Border Collective is something I write in my resume all the time.
Content writing and management, social media management, digital marketing; the possibilities are only limited by what I can think of. And with a little research on who my main ‘competitors’ are, I can learn a lot more.
The same goes for you guys.
The only thing limiting you is how you connect what you love to do in your spare time to actual skills you can write down in your resumes.
Here’s a summary of the 14.5 things you can add to your resume.
If you want a hi-res PDF copy, download it here.
Disclaimer: Not every example included actually exists (most of this though, I just stole from my friend’s resumes and my other life experiences).
The purpose of the examples was just to give you an idea of how we would word and format the types of experiences if we were to make a resume.
I also want to add that the purpose of this post was for people who have no org work or internship experience. If you have those, you don’t have to add all of these things on top of that! Just select your 6 strongest experiences that you want to highlight and that’s it.
Nothing stands out if you include everything you’ve ever done.
A 1.5 page resume highlighting your greatest achievements and strengths from the last 4 years is worth more than a 9 page CV on everything you’ve ever done.
In case you have no idea where you are, welcome to The Border Collective, where any question you’ve got on internships, resumes, or careers in the PH can and will be answered. I’m Justine, founder and writer of all things here.
Resumes is a sub-category of Resource where I share things I’ve learned over the course of fixing my own and a lot of people’s resumes, so that you guys don’t have to trial and error this stuff like I did.
I know it’s incredibly hard to force your whole life to fit neatly on paper and worse, to make it attractive to your dream companies. Through my writings, I hope you learn at least 1 thing that makes your life easier.
This is my way of giving back because I wish that when I was a freshman, a resource like TBC existed to help guide me not to waste my time on things that don’t work.
If there’s something you want to ask but never knew where to send them to, drop them in The Border Collective’s Google Form or ask.fm. Being a kid myself, I’ve probably gone through the same situations. And at the very least, I can tell you what NOT to do.
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Hope you read something useful, til the next time I write something, bye~
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Most of my advice is very different from other career “experts”, since I actually tried and tested it myself. And because, you know, I’m a Chinese girl in the Philippines who tried out for almost every multinational here, while building contacts up in the startup world.
So, expect it to be very contextualized for Asians, women, and // or millennials // Gen Z-ers.
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