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Written by Michelle Tam
Imagine sitting before a potential employer as he or she takes a cursory glance at your academic qualifications. You're hoping that your degree(s) will impress them, and before you know it, they're scanning through the rest of your resume. Namely, through your co-curricular activities, participation in volunteer programs, and the like. How would yours look like? Chock full with stuff that is relevant to your line of interest, speaks volumes of who you are as a person -and more importantly, also illustrates how much more useful you can be compared to other candidates - or painfully bare and devoid of pursuits other than academic-related ones?
Regardless of where you are in life at the moment (though if you're reading this, you're probably a student), your resume or CV - curriculum vitae - can always do with a little boost. Not just for job opportunity's sake, but for your own enrichment as well.
The common choice is to do part-time work to while away the months of free time before college/universities, while others choose to DOTA their time away. However, here's a few suggestions of other things you could do to further develop as a mature, well-rounded person. Oh, and quote in your resume too, of course!
1) Volunteer for a cause or a charity organisation.
Want to save the environment? Have a penchant for helping less fortunate children? If you have no obligations or exams looming in the horizon, you can always check out the various NGOs (non governmental organisations) in the country that would be more than glad to have more helping hands on board. There are many devoted to all sorts of causes; saving the environment, the welfare of women and children, animal rights and so much more!
Just do a Google search on local organisations, and you should be able to find all the information you need. Better yet, just go to a nearby centre, orphanage or branch outlet of the charity of your choice to see what you can offer, be it time, money or energy.
http://www.hati.org.my/ is a notable portal that highlights quite a number of charitable movements.
2) Join a student exchange program.
Want to see the world before you're bogged down by project assignments and deadlines? The few months break between high school and college is the perfect time to do so! Most exchange programs require you to fork out quite a bit of money, but if you know where to look and if you're suitably qualified, you might just win a fully sponsored scholarship to experience life as a student in another country!
One student exchange program I tried out for was AFS, which stands for American Field Service. They do have a fully sponsored program to the United States for a period of 6 months called YES which is very popular, but there are many other choices (which you will have to pay for), and you can choose to go to countries like Germany, Japan, Italy and the like for periods of time ranging from 3 months up to a year!
I applied for a year in Australia when I was in Form 5, and after going through the usual routine of applications and interviews, I got the offer, but was unable to accept it as it it would have interfered with my pre-university plans and the fact that I was called up for NS. Looking back, I wish I had just postponed my Form 6, deferred my NS, and not let this chance slip by.
Student exchange programs can be pricy, but should you get an offer, do not turn it down immediately even if you don't have sufficient funding. Try and get your funding from large corporations, private companies and the like. The key here is perseverance and patience, and this in itself will help mould you into a better person.
3) Freelance in areas of your interests.
Let's face it: part-time jobs aren't exactly fun (long hours! cranky superiors! minimal pay!), but most school leavers choose to take up one to earn some extra pocket money.
Freelancing will also earn you some money, but the monetary returns may not be as significant as a 9 to 5 job. On the other hand, when you freelance, you'll be able to do so in areas of your interest. Honestly speaking, how many people fancy waitressing for a living? No one puts down 'serving customers' as a hobby, right?
If you're skilled with setting up webpages, SQL and other such techy stuff, you can set a price on your abilities and market them to people who need to set up their own domains but, say, don't know how to get hosting and other such technical know-how. If you're creative, proficient in languages, and can cope with deadlines, you can freelance as an editor, a copywriter, or even a translator!
By freelancing in your areas of interest, you're getting paid to do what you enjoy doing - a definite plus! You will also be able to quote your freelance work as experience in your resume and it will demonstrate the fact that you know what your strengths are, and how to use them (by gaining employment). Along the way, your skills will improve as well, enabling you to quote higher prices for your services as your experience and list of clients/employers grows.
You don't need to travel to other countries - after all, how many students have the freedom, both the ones granted by parents and financial-wise, to embark on a trip to Europe? However, if you ARE able to travel to exotic locales, good for you. Otherwise, you can start by exploring Malaysia.
Instead of heading for a shopping mall the next time you go to Malacca, take a walk along Jonker Street instead, or while away the afternoon in one of its many museums. Climb up St. Paul's Hill and gaze upon the bright red of the Stadhuys. Go island hopping in Langkawi, eat strawberries in cold Cameron Highlands, laze on the pristine beaches of the East Coast. Malaysia is chock full of beautiful destinations, and it wouldn't hurt to know the geography of your homeland a little better,
Wait a minute - how does traveling boost your resume, you ask? Simple. Let's say you're an SPM student waiting for the STPM intake. There's about a 6 months gap right there. If you don't want to/need to work, and instead use that time for leisure, you're going to have to account for that blank space in which you were not (a) studying (b) gainfully employed.
And trust me, saying 'I climbed Mount Kinabalu, trekked through the jungles of Pahang, explored the historical city of Malacca' and the like, is going to sound much better than 'I took a 6 month sabbatical doing...nothing! Absolutely nothing, to, uh, clear my mind!'.
And last, but not least...
5) Learn a new skill, another language, get more qualifications.
If you want to make yourself more marketable, improve your English and at least learn spoken Mandarin/Cantonese. It really depends on what industry you plan to enter in the future, but proficiency in English and Mandarin will always be a plus for your resume.
If you're interested in mass communications, learn how to use Adobe Pagemaker and Photoshop. If you're interested in the IT industry, brush up your programming languages like Java, C++ etc, as well as keep abreast of the latest developments in the technological arena. These are but a few of the examples of the skills you can pick up during a long break before you start the next part of your academic journey.
Knowing what to improve on is largely aided by knowing what you want to be, or where you want to go. Life is a learning process in itself, but knowing what you want to achieve in the first place will greatly speed up your progress. So figure out what you're good at, and also what you enjoy doing, and see if there's a way to marry those two together (all the better if you're good at what you enjoy!) and you'll be well on your way to success.
Well, that's my take on how to boost your resume, hope those of you reading will be able to benefit from this in some way!
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