A resume should be a brief summary of your skills, experiences, and achievements and how they relate to the specific job you are applying for. Through my time as a civil engineering student and now as a young professional, my resume has undergone hundreds of iterations. Here are a few general best practices to keep in mind the next time you are working on your resume!
- Section Checklist: Here are a few sections I recommend that you consider when updating your resume:
- Name and Contact Information. For contact information, this typically includes a professional email address, phone number, where you are currently located, and perhaps a LinkedIn URL. (If you want to customize your URL please view the following link: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/87/customizing-your-public-profile-url?lang=en )
- Are you looking for an internship during a specific time, or do you have a specific interest within the field? An objective statement is a great way to set the tone for the rest of your resume while providing crucial information for the recipient in one or two sentences.
- Example: Objective: Junior civil engineering major seeking a co-op position in highway-related field beginning in March 2016 through September 2016.
- This section includes intended degrees, minors, GPA if relevant, and anticipated graduation date.
- Work Experience. Here is where I include internships and/or work experience organized by either relevancy to the job or reverse chronological order. This section is important to tailor based on the position, which I will talk about in more detail later. If you do not have relevant work experience, you can use this section to highlight research experience or classroom projects like first-year or senior design.
- Skills or Software. This optional section is where you can list technical skills, such as soldering, software you have used in past experiences, and coding languages. I personally do not recommend including soft skills here, as those should be shown through your work and volunteer experiences or in the interview rather than in list form.
- Example: Software: AutoCAD 2020, Microstation V8i, InRoads SS2, AutoTURN, Bluebeam Revu 2019
- Have you taken and passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam? Earned a sustainability credential like LEED or ENV SP? List them in this section and include when they expire.
- Example: Engineer-in-Training: PA (ET023914, no exp.) Certified Bridge Safety Inspector, PennDOT (exp. 5-1-22)
- Relevant Courses. In my first two years or so of college, I included a list of relevant coursework that aligned with the internship field I was applying to.
- Extracurriculars and Leadership. This section is similar to work experience, which I will talk about in more detail later. Unlike the skills section, the extracurriculars and leadership section is where you let your soft skills shine!
- Honors and Awards. I like to call this the brag section. Did you receive a scholarship to attend the school you are at? Made Dean’s List? Fellowships or research grants secured? Write about them here!
- Enhance Your Work Experience Section. Work experience or internships, if possible, should be tailored to the specific position you are applying for. For each position, make sure these are in the correct tense (past tense for past roles and present tense for roles you are currently in). For position descriptions, try to keep to no more than two lines per bullet point. Here are a few questions to consider when writing these bullet points:
- What did you bring to the table and how did it impact the project as a whole?
- What software did you use?
- What were the results or deliverables?
A tip you can use here is that when you are nearing the end of an internship or co-op, put a draft together and ask your supervisor to review and provide feedback. Make sure that you give your supervisor ample time to review!
- Review Your Extracurriculars and Leadership Section. Similar to reviewing your work experience, use specifics in this section on what you have accomplished outside the workplace. This is the section where you can show off your soft skills like communication or teamwork! In terms of professional society leadership experience, here is one example of how you can enhance your bullet points through adding quantitative details:
- FROM: Led team of engineering students to plan events throughout academic year
- TO: Managed a team of 20 officers to develop events, conferences, and resources for over 300 members
- Final Formatting. Take a step back from your computer (or your printed resume) and see how it visually looks as a whole. You want your resume to look clean and organized, and that can be negatively affected if you try to include too much. In terms of formatting, I would also consider the following:
- Are the dates you list consistent? (06/2020 vs. June 2020)
- Do you have any spelling mistakes or incorrectly used words? (For example, as a bridge engineer who is also wedding-planning, “bride” is a common word for me right now and is not a spelling error, but not relevant on my resume. Pro tip: you can use the Read Aloud function in Microsoft Word to catch these types of mistakes.)
- Are you being consistent in formatting with fonts, heading styles, indentation, and the way you use italics or bolding throughout your resume?
Also, unless the job application indicates otherwise, I recommend that you submit your resume as a PDF. This will ensure that the recipient can view it with the formatting you intended no matter what operating system or software they use to open it. Lastly, consider using your name and the position for which you are applying in the file name. For example: “Danielle_Schroeder_Project_Manager.pdf” in case recipients do not print it out and view it digitally, instead of seeing a sea of “Resume.pdf” in their downloads folder.
Your resume is a clear, concise self-summary that will hopefully lead you to the next step – the interview process!
Thank you to my fellow ASCE Resume Coaches whose input I have incorporated into the above article: Doug Cantrell, P.E., PMP; Anthony Fasano, P.E., F.ASCE; Joyce Lin; Kathryn Little, EIT; Nicolai Oliden, P.E.; Alice Roache, A.M.ASCE; and Jennifer Sloan Ziegler, P.E., Ph.D., ENV SP.
Danielle graduated in 2017 from Drexel University and received her B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering through their accelerated degree program. She currently works as an Associate Bridge Engineer at Pennoni’s headquarters in their Transportation Division. She is a PennDOT-certified Bridge Safety Inspector and a licensed Engineer in Training and has worked on a variety of bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, including the I-95 Central Access Philadelphia project and the recently constructed retrofit of the Burlington-Bristol Bridge.
Danielle is involved in ASCE locally as the President of the Central PA Younger Members Group (YMG). At the society level, Danielle is a member of the Committee on Developing Leaders, a corresponding member for MOSAIC, and a Topic Moderator for ASCE Collaborate. Danielle is an advocate for STEM outreach, especially to inspire more women to pursue an engineering degree, who frequently leads and volunteers for local outreach events. Outside of ASCE, she currently serves as a Senator for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). In her spare time, Danielle enjoys watching the Philadelphia Eagles with family and friends and traveling when it is safe again to do so.
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