The Secret to a Strong Resume: Joy and Honesty

Applying to college is an exciting chapter of your life. Not only do you begin to imagine all the possible futures that lay ahead of you, but it is also a time for you to really explore who you are and what interests you. In today’s competitive world, the pressure to excel and stand out can lead individuals, especially students, to make choices solely for the sake of bolstering their resumes. While the motivation behind such actions is often well-intentioned, it doesn’t always make us feel super good. Pursuing activities, courses, or interests solely to enhance one’s resume or application makes a lot of sense at the moment. However, we never want to lose sight of the big picture: why am I doing what I am doing? In this article, we take a look at the benefits of making decisions based on genuine interests rather than doing things to please others. 

To begin, let’s look at some of the downsides of pursuing activities solely to put it on your resume.

Burnout. One of the most significant dangers of making decisions solely for the resume is the increased risk of burnout. Burnout is when you do something so often or something is so challenging that you lose motivation. Juggling a hectic schedule filled with activities that you may not genuinely enjoy can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. At the end of a busy week, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself: what brought me joy this week? What activities reenergized me? Which activities drained my energy? 

Authenticity. Admissions officers and potential employers are often able to identify when a candidate is not truly interested or passionate about something. For example, let’s say your parents make you go to chess camp every summer. Chess camp might look cool in your resume, but if someone in an interview asks you why you love chess, you might not have an answer! When your motivations are solely driven by a desire to impress, it can be difficult to maintain the appearance of genuine enthusiasm. Authenticity is key in any application process, and feigning interests can be counterproductive in the long run. Ask yourself: what personal qualities and extracurricular activities do I get excited to share with others? 

Time. Interests, like people, evolve over time, and something that seems appealing now may not hold your interest a few years down the line. When you invest time and effort into something solely for the resume, you may find yourself losing interest or realizing that the pursuit no longer aligns with your goals. This can leave you feeling unfulfilled and questioning the time and energy you’ve invested. One thing that is important to note, however, is that consistently looks great on a resume. For example, if you have been involved with the same charity for many years. So while it is sometimes worth it to stick with your extracurriculars, if you are dreading every minute, it might be time to switch things up. 

Now, let’s talk about some of the benefits to filling your time with activities you genuinely care about.

Mental Health. Pursuing activities and courses that genuinely interest you can have a profound positive impact on your mental health. Engaging in activities that you are passionate about can reduce stress, boost your self-esteem, and provide a sense of purpose. It’s essential to prioritize your mental well-being in the long term over the short-term gains of a better resume.

Life-Long Skills. When you follow your interests, you are more likely to acquire valuable, long-lasting skills. Skills learned out of genuine passion tend to be more deeply ingrained and practical. These skills are likely to serve you well throughout your life, both personally and professionally. In contrast, skills acquired for the sole purpose of a resume may not be as well-developed or applicable in the real world. For example, if you are genuinely interested in painting, then dedicating your time to it will not only look great on a resume, but is a skill you can use for the rest of your life!

Pride. Making choices based on your interests and happiness leads to authenticity in your actions. When you engage in activities that you are passionate about, your enthusiasm shines through, and that is something to be proud of! 

You are unique. You are special, you are interesting, you are worthy and capable. Pursue the things that interest you. If you are content with the way you spend your time and happy with the things you do, you will find that the opinions of others won’t matter as much. Try not to compare yourself to others, and focus on impressing YOURSELF before anyone else! 
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