The Special Project Technique

Another excellent technique for filling in the gaps in the Experience section of your resume is the Special Project Technique. It works especially well if you can dovetail in a large project for one of your classes with a company that specifically interests you.

Choose a project that not only will fulfill the requirements of a class project assignment, but will also serve as a real-life simulation of work in the field. If there are no special projects on your class docket, you might try asking one of your professors to use this as a substitute for your final or as extra credit. Or you might seek approval of the Department Chair to make this an Independent Study project (often worth one to three credit hours). Choose the company you have your strongest interest in and then contact the company to gather as much basic information as possible. You have an open door for researching the company that no other student has access because you are studying the company as a special project.

"I am in the process of completing a special project for my _____ class and have chosen your company to research. Could you please provide me with fifteen minutes to ask some questions and obtain some information?"

Its a natural entry into almost any company. Your academic approach to the company will usually have the information flowing forth from otherwise tight-lipped employees. In the process of gathering company information, you will also gather names and titles of key individuals in the organization. Because you are likely the only college student to be using the company specifically as the focus for a special project, you will put yourself in good standing for any job openings that might occur. You already have the inside track.

Academic "projects" are often the best way to combine the world of school with the world of work. You can gain both work experience and academic credits at the same time.

The net result is that you have killed three birds with one stone: you have met your academic needs via the project, you have greatly improved your resume (and your ability to talk about "real-world" experience), and you have gained access to a company that interests you. It's win-win-win in all three areas!

A recent grad used this technique in his Senior Financial Management class and did a case study on the role of an investment banking firm in the recently completed merger of one of its clients. He developed an entire case study from what he felt would be the client's perspective in the merger, including an exploration of all potential concerns. Then he developed answers for each one of these concerns from the perspective of the investment banking firm. As it turned out, his uncanny knack for research scored a direct hit with the firm, and eventually they offered him a job after graduation in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group.