Rarely are resumes able to capture a whole person. People are just too complex to be refined down to a single page.
That said, there are some accomplishments outside of your professional life that you may want to try including because they either do a pretty good job of summing up some of your soft skills or offer an interesting spin on some of your technical skills. Maybe you’ve, say, run a couple marathons, demonstrating your adventurous spirit, strong work ethic, and desire to challenge yourself.
Problem is, there’s no “Marathon Experience” slot on resumes—so how do you include it? Here are three ideas.
1. Skills and Interests
Your resume likely includes a “Skills” section (if not, it should), and it’s really easy to just edit that slightly into a “Skills and Interests” or “Skills and Achievements” section. Now it’s completely appropriate to include personal achievements like running a marathon, winning a national chess championship, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. This is generally the best place to tack on achievements like these—just make sure you give your accomplishments their own separate bullet.
2. Summary of Qualifications
Alternatively, if your achievement is actually quite relevant to the positions you’re seeking, then you may want to have it higher up on your resume. Say you’ve won several poker tournaments and are interested in trader positions at an investment bank. Recruiters for trading positions love finding candidates who are strong poker players. In this case, including your poker skills in your “Summary” section is one way of having this highlighted much higher up in your resume.
3. Professional Development
Your final option is creating a specific section for it altogether. If you have several accomplishments that can all fall under something like “Professional Development,” “Community Involvement,” or some other coherent category, then it might make sense to just pull them all out into their own section.
The caveat to this option is that these accomplishments really would need to be related to the position you’re applying for. Maybe you’ve biked across Europe, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and taught English in Japan. This would all make sense to include in an “International Experience” section if you were applying for a position at a company like EF Education First (a company focused on creating study abroad, cultural exchange, and language training opportunities)—but probably not so much for a regional sales position.
Personal accomplishments can be tricky to incorporate into a professional resume, but often times it’s worth considering including them if only for the conversation starter. Just make sure everything you include serves a purpose, whether it’s to highlight soft skills, strengthen technical skills, or just start a conversation. As long as your achievement passes this check, you can try to squeeze it in.
Photo of marathon runner courtesy of Martin Good / Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author