5 Unexpected Ways to Make Yourself More Marketable on Paper

At some point in our lives, many of us will feel like we are stuck in a dead-end job. Maybe it’s because we don’t feel challenged or fulfilled, our coworkers keep eating our lunches out of the refrigerator (I’m looking at you, RITA), our boss is a raging psychopath, and/or anything in between.  

One of the shittiest things about feeling unsatisfied with our job is feeling like we’re wasting each day without making any progress toward our goal of switching companies or even transitioning careers. But making major career changes often involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for a position to open at that awesome company you’re dying to work for. Waiting until you finish a big project for your boss. Waiting until your personal life becomes less hectic before potentially throwing your professional life into upheaval. Life-changing career moves are all about timing, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be productive in the interim.  

So while you’re trying to figure out whether and how to take some pretty major next steps in your professional life, I have compiled a list of five things you can do (or at least start doing) today to make your resume more appealing to potential employers in any field:

1.  Start an unusual new hobby.

Take a moment to put yourself into a hiring manager’s shoes – reviewing hundreds of resumes that all have similar work experience and education (especially if you’re applying for a mid-level position) – it’s got to be mind-numbingly boring. One way of setting yourself apart from the pack is by listing an unusual hobby.  

Having an interesting hobby serves two functions in a job search – (1) it might give you something to connect with your interviewer about on a more personal level, which will help you stand out from the crowd (“Oh, you are an underwater basket weaver? I majored in underwater basket weaving!” Voila. You just became memorable), and (2) it may give your interviewer some clues about how you will function in the workplace (She does yoga? She can probably stay calm and collected in stressful situations!).

An important caveat: only list hobbies that are actually interesting. For example, listing “reading” as a hobby is basically the same as listing “breathing” or “eating dinner”. We get it, you read. So does everyone else. But if you list “reading 18th century French epistolary novels” as a hobby, that might actually be a conversation starter.  

2.  Develop a skill.

I know you’re thinking “Aren’t skills basically the same as hobbies?” Great question. While something like photography or fencing can be both a skill and a hobby, consider something like typing or Excel fluency. Skills? Yes. Hobbies? I don’t know anything about you. If you love waking up on a Sunday morning and creating spreadsheets for fun, then by all means, YOU DO YOU.  

There are two different types of skills you can include on your resume – hard and soft – and ideally, you want a balanced mix of both. “Soft” skills are intangible, subjective abilities like communication, self starter or problem-solver.  “Hard” skills are specific, technical abilities that can be learned via online courses, in classrooms, internships, etc. Here, we are focusing on hard skills because they are objective and easily quantifiable.  

Depending on what kind of work you do, there are certain skills that we can learn to make us more attractive to a potential employer, like operating tools or computer programs that are relevant to your field of work. Look online or chat with other people in your desired field to figure out what kinds of skills would make you an asset. For example, if you want to become a graphic designer, then you’ll absolutely need to at least get a working knowledge of photo editing software.  

3.  Get certified.

Certifications are a close relative of hard skills, as discussed above. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of different certifications one can obtain, and they range from company-specific to industry-wide to college certifications. Depending on what kind of work you do and where you work, research if there are any certifications that would make you better qualified for a job you might be interested in. Here is a great list of different kinds of certifications to help get you started.

For example, as a California attorney, I could take classes and pass a test in order to become certified in one of eleven areas of law (entertainment law is not on the list, so I am shit out of luck). That certification could increase my chances of being hired at a firm that specializes in the same area of law.  

As an added bonus, many professional certifications also make you eligible for pay increases, and who doesn’t want more money!?!

4.  Join a professional organization.

Joining a professional organization can benefit you in several ways. When you list one on your resume, it makes you appear interested and involved in your field, and it can show that you are taking necessary steps to improve your career. If you’re not sure which organization to join (or which ones even exist in your field), then as always, google that shit. If you’re still not sure where to start, the California Career Café has a pretty thorough database to help get you started. 

For some potential employers, it’s not enough to simply join an organization, but rather they would like to see that you are an active, contributing member. Therefore, once you have joined a professional organization, make sure to attend meetings, serve on committees and volunteer your time. This will help showcase leadership and project-management skills, among other things.  

Professional associations can also be great resources in terms of networking, marketing and mailing lists. For example, when I started this blog, I sent out email blasts to my USC networking groups, sorority networking groups, and entertainment law groups (although I can’t attest to how successful that was, but a girl can dream).  

5.  Learn a new language. 

This is closely tied to both starting a new hobby and learning a new skill, and it is a great way to add value to your resume.  Learning a new language tells your future employer a three things about you: (1) It demonstrates that you have a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement; (2) It tells them that you’re a self-starter (no one forced you to go out and learn a language – you did it because you wanted to, and that makes you look pretty badass to a hiring manager); and (3) Learning a new language could also be beneficial to your potential employer in ways you never thought of. Do you speak Mandarin? Maybe your interviewer does, too. Boom, you just connected on a level that most applicants would kill for. Or maybe a firm’s biggest client is Chinese, and you would be the perfect fit to service their account.

While some sections of your resume are largely out of your control at this point in your life (i.e., education and work experience), these are just five of the ways to continue to add value to your resume every day. These aren’t your only options, either – there are countless ways to enhance your resume – it really boils down to two things: (1) finding new and unusual ways to connect with the people in charge of interviewing and hiring; and (2) showing your potential employer that you are taking proactive steps to improve yourself both personally and professionally.

Bonus points: These tips won’t just help you build your resume, they will are also great for getting you out of the house and more socially involved, which could mean meeting new people (ahem, like for a date) or making friends in a new city.   

Have you ever landed a job because of something interesting or unusual on your resume?

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