Humanizing the Resume: Add WWOOF, Add Character

Emily Sujka is a Junior at New York University studying Economics.  As part of her Sophomore year, she attended NYU Prague in the Czech Republic. She has journeyed to all seven continents.  Abroad and domestically she has been involved in several English-teaching volunteer programs.  On campus she participates in Polish Club, American Red Cross Club, CommAg, and several other organizations.  Her passions include Polish language study and darkroom Photography. 

Student Assistant, Farmhand, Intern, English Teacher, Global Peer Educator, Stacks Assistant: these are the first four job positions I have listed on my resume.  Let me ask a question now, which of these occupational titles sticks out the most?  Which of these are not like the other?  Which of these will make your interviewer fall back a little more into the recline of his/her office chair?  If you said either Stacks or Student Assistant, I don’t believe you.  Employers get these vague titles all day long.  They read these and think, what skills do you have from being an assistant that I can utilize?  Maybe some Excel proficiency?  They jump down to skills: beginner Excel.  They see Intern and for a brief moment they chortle at the synonymic nature of assistant and intern.  Their eyes catch the words teacher and educator and they know that you’ve done more than watch YouTube behind a desk all day.  So, I’ll ask again, what throws them?

You’re sitting at the interview and they lean back a bit, “Farmhand, huh.  So tell me about that.”  The squint in their eye conveys the skepticism.  He/she has caught you in a lie.  But, rather than scrambling to make up a story to preserve your resume’s color, your eyes turn glazy.  “Well, every morning I fed the 12 kids…my favorite was Schwarklop (giggle), but that’s a tragic story so I won’t tell it now, and took out the 43 goats for breakfast…” Your interviewer couldn’t hastily glance over your Experience.  You caught them by curiosity before they got close to the Interests portion, the part where they try and forge some type of artificial connection to see what type of person you are along with the resume-proclaimed worker you are.

Now comes the usual, how, where, why did I farm?  World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), answers that first question.  This truly international organization circulates volunteers from all over the world, putting them on organic farms from Bangladesh to Oregon.  You choose the site (the farm, country, etc.), you choose the time, and you go get your hands dirty while breathing in an unfamiliar air and sharing in a different culture.  As for why, I could list off the millions of practical reasons for me going alone to rural Poland to bake bread at 3AM and feed cows in the pouring rain.  But, really, what could satisfactorily rationalize that last statement?

Nothing looks better to employers than thriving outside of your comfort zone.  Showing  that you’re a quick learner and a global, open-minded individual is invaluable in a job environment when many applicants look like cookies, all cut the same.  So grab hold of WWOOF, the opportunity to get away from the too tall skyscrapers.  Take steps to mold yourself.  WWOOF: go anywhere and grow something.