Your resume is your personal marketing tool. Its primary purpose is to help you obtain interviews.
If properly presented, your RA position can provide your resume with enough ammunition to land you interviews in any career field. In this article, I will take you step-by-step through the process of effectively incorporating your RA experience into your resume. Since a comprehensive discussion of resume writing is beyond the scope of this article, I recommend that you seek out other resources (e.g., career counselor, resume writing books) for additional guidance.
Step 1: Job Description
What do you do as an RA? You are probably so busy performing your position’s eclectic responsibilities that you may find it difficult to articulate what you do. Your official RA job description — often provided by the Residence Life Staff during the hiring process — can help. The advantages of utilizing your official job description to develop your resume include ease in identifying your exact responsibilities and (in some instances) ready-made resume job descriptor phrases.
If an official job description is unavailable to you, you can compose your own. Take out a blank sheet of paper — or word processing document — and write down everything that you do. I mean everything, including taking out the garbage, if that is part of your job. Why everything? Because you should have an open mind when performing this exercise to ensure that your final job description encompasses all aspects of your position. Without this mindset, some real gems may be omitted; extraneous items will be deleted at a later time. When writing out your RA job responsibilities (each responsibility item is called a job descriptor phrase), attempt to use this example as a model: “Develop and implement a floor program plan each semester”. Doing this will save you time and effort later in this process.
I suggest that everyone complete this exercise. Even those with an official job description, since your job description may be outdated, or quite possibly, you have personally expanded upon it, due to your initiative and motivation. By generating your own job description you can guarantee that all of your relevant responsibilities will be accounted for in your resume. Put your job description aside for now. You will be referring to it in Step 3 and Step 4.
Step 2: Career Field Skill List
A good resume is a targeted resume. Your resume should be targeted to a specific career field, otherwise it will be ineffective in helping you obtain interviews. To develop a targeted resume you must have a clear picture of your career goal(s). If you are uncertain of your career goal(s), visit a career counselor at your University’s Career Services office. Interested in more than one career field? Then create as many versions of your resume as you have career goals. Each version of your resume should be targeted to one specific field. Your first task during this step is to generate a career objective for each career field that you are considering. A sample objective for an RA with the general notion that she would like to help people and use her psychology degree is “To obtain a position within a Social Service organization.”
After your career objective(s) is (are) nailed down, you should generate a Career Field Skill List for each objective. The list(s) should be comprised of skills desired by employers in your targeted field(s). For example, empathy, listening and patience are a few of the skills sought after for case manager positions in the social services. Come up with as many skills as you can. Should you find this task a bit too challenging, you can consult various resources. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good place to start. It contains general descriptions for most career fields. Also, peruse numerous newspaper and web classified job advertisements; these ads often contain sets of field-specific skills. A career counselor should be able to assist you here as well. Once your list(s) is (are) complete, rank the career skills from most important to least important (this is not an exact science, so do the best that you can). The idea is to use your final Career Field Skill List(s) as a general guide when developing the RA experience portion of your resume. You will be returning to this list in Step 4.
Step 3: Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are highly prized abilities that you can take with you to any career field. Examples are communication (verbal and written), problem-solving, interpersonal, analytical, research, and time management. Your RA position is chock-full of these valued skills. During this phase you will be extracting transferable skills from your job descriptor phrases (from Step 1). Prior to delving in, edit out the most irrelevant job descriptor phrases from your job description. Items such as taking out the garbage should be eliminated. If you have any ambivalence about whether to leave a descriptor phrase on your list, LEAVE IT. You want to avoid the misstep of throwing away valuable “marketing” material.
Take out another blank sheet of paper (or word processing document) and create two columns. Place each of your remaining job descriptor phrases in the left-hand column, which is to be labeled “RA Job Description”. Label the right-hand column “Transferable Skills”. Carefully read each job descriptor phrase and generate a list of transferable skills for each one. Here is a sample:
<tr “>RA JOB DESCRIPTIONTRANSFERABLE SKILLS
|Manage a University residence hall floor of ethnically diverse undergraduate students||Management, Communication, Interpersonal, Leadership|
|Maintain all bulletin boards and fliers with accurate, up-to-date, and useful information||Research, Information Skills, Communication, Creativity|
|Counsel students on various personal and academic issues||Empathy, Listening, Analytical|
Step 4: Putting it all Together
Most of you will be utilizing a Chronological resume format, in which your jobs are presented in reverse chronological order. Reverse chronological means that you start with your most recent job at the top of your resume’s EXPERIENCE section and work back (and down) in time. For each of your jobs you should include the basics: employer, city, state, job title, and dates of employment. Your job descriptor phrases are grouped below this basic information and may be presented in a bulleted or paragraph format. A bulleted sample is shown below. A paragraph format resembles the format of the paragraph that you are presently reading. Each descriptor phrase should start with an action verb, such as Counsel, Manage, or Assist. Action verbs are present tense if you are currently working in the position and past tense if you are no longer employed. Your first descriptor phrase should be a general description sentence capturing the essence of your job, such as manage a University residence hall floor of 36 ethnically diverse undergraduate students.
All additional descriptor phrases should be presented in rank order of relevance and importance. Relevance and importance are determined by utilizing your Transferable Skills and Career Field Skill lists. Those descriptor phrases with transferable skills that most closely match the top skills on your Career Field Skill List should come first. If you have more than one career objective, the order in which your descriptor phrases appear may vary in each version of your resume. Quantify your responsibilities whenever you can — note the inclusion of the number of students in the above example — as employers look highly upon this type of content. Also, when possible, incorporate results and achievements into your descriptor phrases. A phrase such as planned and implemented at least four programs per semester would be much less impactful as planned and implemented at least four programs per semester resulting in a well-rounded educational and recreational residence hall environment. Additionally, include any awards received as well as recognition. For instance, recognized consistently for strong organizational skills, is an appropriate descriptor phrase if your superiors often compliment your organizational skills.
Here is an example of an experience entry for an RA targeting a management position. In an actual resume more bulleted descriptor phrases could (and sometimes should) be listed.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey – Campus at Newark
Resident Assistant, Month/Year to Month/Year
- Manage a university residence hall floor of 36 ethnically diverse undergraduate students
- Run monthly floor meetings and conduct frequent room drop-ins to discuss events, developments, and concerns to ensure that students are kept up-to-date on all pertinent information
- Work in Residence Life office for 10 to 15 hours per week performing duties such as responding to student and staff questions, answering telephones, and operating computers and various office equipment
- Enforce University and Residence Life rules and regulations resulting in a safe, orderly and enjoyable living environment
Follow the procedures prescribed in this article for a competitive edge in the job search game. Employers from all career fields are interested in relevant experience, leadership abilities, and results. Your RA position provides you with all these and more. It is incumbent on you to showcase this experience in a manner that accentuates its most relevant and important aspects.
Submitted by David Bills, Career Counselor, Rutgers University-Newark