Fitting 10 Pounds of Shit in a 5-Pound Bag

As a humor columnist for my college newspaper, The Capaha Arrow at Southeast Missouri State University, I was long-winded and often wrote longer columns than space would allow my editors to print. Seems I loved the sound of my own voice (and if you’ve gotten this far into this e-book, I doubt you’re surprised). So my adviser gave me an excellent, if politically incorrect, piece of advice: “The ideal length of an article is the ideal length of a woman’s skirt,” he said. “Long enough to cover everything, but short enough to make it interesting.” And the same holds true for resumes.

If there’s one rule that just about everyone has heard about resume writing, it’s that you should keep your resume to one page. But is it true? As usual, the answer is, “it depends.” If you’re a college student – especially an undergraduate student – then 99 percent of the time, the answer is yes, you should keep it to one page. If you’re some kind of wunderkind who was speaking five languages and taking community college classes while your peers were double-dutching and making Pinewood Derby cars, then you may have an argument for a second page. If not, then stick to one page. And I really do mean 99 percent of the time, so this probably means you.

Yes, but: Inevitably, when I talk about the one-page rule, I get at least one or two students who raise their hands and say, “But I’ve accomplished SO much and I’m in SO many activities and have SO many accomplishments, that I just can’t fit all my important information on one page.” My answer? Unlikely. Certainly, some students are so busy achieving that, when it comes time to get it all down on paper, it just won’t fit. But all that tells you is:

a) You need to be more choosy about what you include in your resume. Your future employer can live without knowing some of this stuff.

b) The things you do include, you need to write about more concisely.

c) You need to use the formatting tools in your word-processing software to your advantage.

Again, I don’t say this to discourage you high-achievers out there, or to suggest that you shouldn’t be proud of all your accomplishments. You should. And I know how you feel. I graduated summa cum laude, got a string of writing awards, was in a half-dozen honor societies, etc., so I know what it’s like to feel like a hotshot coming out of school. However, you have to realize that none of the slave-to-the-grind, real-world employers out there – people who don’t know you from Adam – has the time to recognize each accomplishment and be as proud of you as you, your family and friends are. That’s just not on their agenda, and it’s never going to be. What IS on their agenda is to find someone to fill the position in front of them. And you can save them time by fitting all of your relevant information onto one beautiful, concise page. Trust me, it can be done.

Keeping your resume to one page will seem difficult at first, but it’s not that bad once you learn a few tips and tricks. The tips have to do with the content you do and don’t include, and the tricks are in the formatting.

2 thoughts on “Fitting 10 Pounds of Shit in a 5-Pound Bag”

  1. Hi there,
    I’m wondering about including academic stuff in general. I have a two-page resume, at the moment, because I explain what I did at each job (job titles are not explanatory, in my case) and because instead of objectives I list “qualifications,” or the things I’m really excellent at. (Dedicated–raised $1850 in two weeks to save a family’s house; detail-oriented–I can find Waldo. Etc.)
    I have a lot of academic awards from high school, and high GPAs (3.9ish high school, 3.4 college). But I attended two high schools, and have certificates for various things from community colleges as well as my Great Books program. How much should I cut out?

  2. Josh, I have been receiving emails from you for awhile and I’ve read some of the articles you send out. I happened to find this website tonight through a link to one of your other articles. I was really surprised to read about the Capaha Arrow on here! I’m currently a student at SEMO..

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