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Stop pretending to be a middle schooler on your resume

I’ve been there, you’ve been there, we’ve all been there. But it’s time to move on

You do not want to be Johnny on your resume.
You do not want to be Johnny on your resume.

If you were an overachiever in middle school, you probably have a mantelpiece filled with trophies. Maybe you joined every single club you heard the name of, applied to every competition you could find and jumped at every opportunity to pass the time. Maybe your parents told you that middle school achievements were particularly important. Regardless of the reason, you piled up activities. By the time you were applying to things in high school you had an overflowing resume of middle school awards.

I get it, I really do. Things were easy back then, and you could write everything out neatly in a list — your loyal participation in the school’s literary magazine club, the third place trophy from that one debate competition, that volunteer award you got for moving some boxes. They’re all momentous points in life, occasions to be remembered forever. 

Some people argue that your middle school years are the most formative of your life — kids go through something that’s “definitely not a phase”, they may or may not fall in love for the first time and they might transform into someone unrecognizable within the span of two to three years. It’s the magic of that thing called puberty and the realization that you are just an insignificant blob in the infinite universe that really changes how you live your life. 

That’s why you might want to keep that debate tournament trophy on your resume — because it’s not just a trophy. It's a stunning, earth-shattering moment in your life that redefined your perspective and basically rewired your DNA. Maybe you still linger on that moment when you argued about how reptiles cause salmonella with sweat dripping down your neck, running short of breath as you argued about the nation’s most critical issue of the year — “Should reptiles be kept as pets?” It’s a memory about how you realized you could put effort into something and succeed — and though the trophy was very obviously cheap plastic — it was worth more than any gold.

But corporations, internships and programs don’t see your memories — and they definitely won’t read more than five whole words of your achievement or activity’s description — so do not even think about composing a heartfelt essay about why that middle school club meant so much to you. Point is, if you leave in your middle school achievements, all your resume readers are going to see is a grubby little kid experiencing hormones for the first time, who didn’t do anything in the past three years and who had to reach way back for any tangible successes.

You know those kids that peaked in middle school? They hit high school or college and only joined one club, also known as the go home early club. When your parents bring them up, all they can do is say, “Oh, yeah, Johnny. Johnny’s a nice boy, isn’t he?” with a slightly pitiful expression. You do not want to be Johnny on your resume.

If you are questioning my credibility, just know that there is no bias here, only pure facts and cold, hard logic. I am a reliable expert at crafting resumes. My expertise comes with the experience of tearfully, I mean carefully, obliterating every mention of “middle school me” from my own resume when I started applying to things near the end of high school.

So if you’re writing a resume and realize you cannot think of anything after middle school, instead of dooming yourself to a sea of rejections when resume reviewers see that you won that Science Olympiad competition five years ago, try joining some clubs and activities now. Who knows, maybe you’ll make even better memories than before.


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