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The 5-Year Resume: A Tool for Proactive Career Planning in the Early Undergraduate Years


By Analise Anderson

I work as a peer resume advisor in the career centre of a large Canadian university. Many of the students I see are in 4th year or have graduated, and have recently begun thinking about career entry.

The 5-year resume enables students new to post-secondary education to begin proactive career planning and goal-setting. While gaining resume-writing skills, students will learn how their undergraduate experience leads into a career path. (I drew inspiration from the article cited).1

I envision the concept of 5-year resume writing delivered in a workshop to first- and second-year students, and collaboratively with administrators representing the co-curricular record (CCR), and with academic advisors. CCR representatives are able to explain the many types of co-curricular activities available to students, and the importance of considering the skills and knowledge to be gained from choosing to participate in an activity. Academic advisors are able to help students understand the types of skills they will be gaining from their academic work, and how these skills are transferrable to paid work. Academic and career advisors can collaborate to assist students with understanding the various career paths that an academic major can lead to, broadening a student’s perspective on the applicability of their academic knowledge in the world of work.

The 5-year resume serves the practical purpose of teaching students resume-writing skills. From this activity, students will learn resume formatting, and practice writing ‘accomplishment statements’. On a typical resume, accomplishment statements explain the work that an individual completed in a given role, and the impact of that role on the organization they were working for. In writing accomplishment statements in a 5-year resume, students can select the types of skills they intend to develop and the type of tasks they envision themselves gaining these skills from. With regard to impact, students should consider both the fictitious impact of their work (aiding in goal-setting), and how that work positively impacts their career goals.

Ex: “Planned and oversaw the implementation of a campus-wide event, which drew an audience of 200 students, and from which I gained experience writing a project plan and budget.”

The 5-year resume workshop should be delivered as part of a suite of career planning tools available to first- and second-year students, which many career centres already offer. The types of tools I’m referring to include online programs (such as CareerCruising) that enable students to gain an understanding of careers from the Canadian perspective, opportunities to meet with professionals in the fields that students are aspiring to (via externships, or informational interviews), as well as vocational assessments.

One note of importance in delivering this workshop: Ensure that students aren’t ‘locked in’ to the career path and activities they’re envisioning in their 5-year resume. Many students decide to change majors. Encourage students who change their major to revise their 5-year resume, by taking into consideration how the skills and knowledge they’ve gained can be tailored to suit a new career path.

Analise Anderson trains and coaches peer advisors who provide resume, cover letter and LinkedIn advising and workshops to students. Currently, Analise is completing a Master of Arts in Higher Education at OISE in the University of Toronto. Her thesis work focuses on how peer advisors develop competencies and career goals.

1. Damminger, J. K., Potter, G. C., & Pritchard, R. E. (2011). Adding value to the first-year experience: Embedding self and major exploration in the college of business curriculum. American Journal of Business Education (AJBE), 2(3).


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