I was stereotyped all throughout my undergrad. I was a biochemistry and neuroscience student, doing an honours degree, and was heavily involved in campus life. Everyone automatically assumed that my goal was to go to medical school and be a doctor.
When I was in second year, I travelled to Louisiana during Reading Week with a group of students to work with Habitat for Humanity. When another member of our group found out what I was majoring in, he said, “Oh, so you want to go to med school. Is that why you’re here?” No, I didn’t want to go to medical school, and no, I hadn’t travelled 40 hours by bus simply to have something to put on an application.
I hate it when people do things simply because they think it will look good on their résumé. Or when someone advertises an event or a position by telling you it will look good on your med school application. Every time this happens, a small portion of my soul shrivels up.
Please. Stop. You’re killing me.
If I had done things for my résumé when I started university, my résumé would be useless to me now.
When I started university, I was head-over-heels in love with science, and thought I wanted to go into research. If I had done things for my résumé at that point, I would have spent all my time volunteering in labs, joining journal clubs, tutoring other students, and applying for teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Luckily, that’s not what I did. Instead, I got involved in student societies, in residence life, with orientation, and with other areas of my student union. All of these activities helped me develop skills that would have been useful for a career in research, but they also allowed me to discover what it was I really enjoyed (hint- it wasn’t research).
I don’t have time to do things that will look good on my résumé in the future. I’m too busy doing things that are benefiting me now. That’s not to say I didn’t participate in research-related extra-curriculars as an undergrad, because I did. I spent a few hours a week volunteering in a lab, but left after one semester when I didn’t feel I was getting much from it. While I wasn’t part of a journal club, I was an editor for an undergraduate science research journal- I loved being able to help others improve and share their writing. I did work as a TA for a year, and loved helping students navigate the lab, and I was a co-op student so had several research related jobs. But I never participated in any of these things because of what it would do for me in the future. I participated because of what it was doing for me there, in the moment. I enjoyed it.
University offers so many opportunities to be involved in so many different things. You don’t have to join an organization simply because it will look good on your résumé. Many opportunities offer the same type of skill development- leadership skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, team work skills, etc, and that’s what is really important. I don’t know what the future is going to look like. I don’t want to mold myself into something specific now that won’t allow me to do what I want in the future. And I don’t want you to do that either. So join the organizations that you’re truly interested in. And join them for the love of it.
Since I don’t want you to be doing things just for your résumé, I don’t want our organizations to be encouraging that mindset either. Organizations should not be recruiting by advertising that membership looks good on a résumé. Does your organization only exist for this purpose? I sure hope not. As a leader of an organization, if you’re only going to join for the sake of being able to put it on your résumé, I don’t really want you to join after all. Seriously. Leave. You’re not going to contribute the way I want you to, you’re not going to gain anything from the experience, and we’re most likely not going to get along.
I was once running for an executive position on a student society. The candidate I was running against confessed that he didn’t really care whether or not he won this particular race- he simply needed an executive position, any executive position. Not wanted. Needed. I won the race, but he also ended up on the executive. Would you be surprised to learn that he didn’t contribute very much? I wasn’t- he only wanted the position so he could put it on his med school application.
Still feel pressured to keep your future in mind when signing up for extra-curriculars? At the very least, consider this: a line on your résumé is not going to get you a job or a spot at medical school, or graduate school. At most, it’s going to get you an interview. And subsequently, that interview may land you a job or a spot at medical school. So don’t think about what an experience will add to your résumé. Think about what it will add to your interview. And since interviews are typically all about transferable skills, that means you can choose to have any experience you want, and it can still benefit you in an interview.
Your time is valuable. So is space on your résumé. Don’t waste it.