Taking the first step

Getting involved wasn’t always so easy for me. Sure, I was a big fan of tagging along with friends and hanging around school clubs, but I was never one to ask for any kind of responsibility or to get attached to a club or group. It was one thing to sit in the back, half asleep, while my friends took charge, it was a whole other thing to take on a role – or even worse, try to get elected for something.
And that’s how I moved through high school. Somehow, when I walked onto my University’s campus for that first “Get Involved” fair I knew that my sideline cheerleading may not cut it here. I was immediately drawn to the shiny booths promoting Greek Life on campus – especially intrigued after a summer of binge watching the TV show Greek – so I figured I would give joining a sorority a try. It was one quick moment, but it changed everything for me.
My first year in the sorority, I fell into old habits. I was quiet, I made sure to do my part and be helpful in any way possible as long as I had an older girl around to guide me. As I started watching the sorority’s executive team I found myself inexplicably drawn to them. They were all so intelligent, beautiful, and damn, they were good at what they did. Taking an uncharacteristic risk, I decided to run for the smallest position on the team, a position so small they were considering cutting it the following year. And I won.
That was it for me. The spark was lit. I realized how much fun I was having working on all these little projects, having a better grasp on how the organization ran, and learning about all these amazing people instead of napping in the back of meeting. By the end of that year, I had completely changed my position and made it integral to the organization again, won the Executive of the Year award at our formal (a very big deal for a newbie in such a small position), and was elected President for my third year of University (another unprecedented occurrence). With one small move, I set my world on fire and couldn’t get enough. I was piling projects on projects just to stay involved. I finally cared about something and would do whatever it took to make it better and more incredible.
While I was there, a girl who I was close with noticed my work ethic and wanted to introduce me to her aunt who was hiring help for her company (the largest film distributor in Canada, Entertainment One) during the Toronto International Film Festival. I was graduating but planning to go on to get more schooling and this job would mean missing the first week of my new program. The opportunity was too good to pass up, so I made it my new mission – I had to get this job.
I had some experience with interviewing but I knew that my strength was in the work I had already done. I proofread my resume until it was perfect. If I passed you on the street, I probably asked you to look it over, I had to get as many eyes on it as possible to make sure it was flawless. I also decided to create a portfolio of all my work. I took a binder, divided it into subcategories of work I’ve done and volunteer projects I participated in so that my “experience” wasn’t just words on a piece of paper. It was tangible, all clearly divided into tabs in a binder. It was posters I made, photos from events I’ve run, pages from the campus newspaper that I personally edited, and essays I had written. It was my greatest hits. To this day, the woman that hired me still laughs at the girl in the bow who came in with the binder, and how in awe she was. Not only did the binder get me the job, but it showed her what kind of person I was, and what my work ethic looked like. Even though my contract ended that first week in September, she ended up keeping me on for almost two years until I decided I wanted to try something new.
That first job led me to my new job and to the countless connections I made while I was there. From that, I gained a whole army of people who respect the way I work and want to help me succeed. One simple move set my entire career in motion. I don’t know what, if anything, would have inspired me to move if it hadn’t have been for joining that sorority. I do know, however, that it’s about finding the right thing to get involved in and giving it your all. You won’t regret it.
But how do you build that killer resume, or take your work up a notch? Most (if not all) schools have resume writing workshops and resources available to you – so take advantage! If they don’t, there are tons of resources online like this! Beyond that, get your friends, parents, mentors to look over everything you’re writing down. You’re trying to get across who you are, it’s very important to give yourself the best shot and try to highlight your best moments and skills.
Here are the key things to keep in mind when crafting your resume.
♦ Keep it short! Don’t make your resume more than 2 pages. If it’s anything longer  than that, the important things you are trying to highlight will get lost in the shuffle and employers will skim it over quickly (TL;DR)
♦ Don’t mess around with the fonts. Keep in mind that whoever has to read your resume also has to read dozens – if not hundreds – more. Make it easy on their eyes, stand out with your skills and not by using hot pink comic sans.
♦ Always spell check. Those red squiggly lines aren’t there for decoration; they are there to warn you from making a big mistake! That being said, spell check isn’t perfect and can’t tell you everything so make sure you’re proofreading it yourself.
♦ Start sentences with verbs when talking about past experiences on a resume. It’s about what you did not about what you learned.
Once you get in the door, think about how best to wow them! Is there something you’ve done that you think they’d be interested in? Can you answer their question but also steer it back to all the other incredible things you’ve done? Look at what they’re looking for – be it someone organized, creative, hard working, detailed – and show them that they don’t need to look any further. You’re already there!
Lastly (but probably the most important tip), if you take away only one piece of advice from this, please remember: ALWAYS FOLLOW UP! You have no reason not to. I know many employers that won’t consider you unless you’ve followed up. Following up shows commitment to the position, eagerness and initiative – all things they are looking for but can’t see on a resume.
And speaking of taking a risk and trying something new… have you heard that applications for The Phoenix Leadership Conference open this Sunday? Being a part of the incredible team is an excellent (not to mention fun) way to get involved and to make an impact on your community. Apply! What are you waiting for?
by Becca Silver



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