IT Resume 101: Language Skills, Volunteer Experience, Publications, Presentations and More

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In the last few weeks, we've covered a number of tips on building an IT resume, including:


For most candidates, this covers the essential resume ingredients.

Now, in our final entry in the IT Resumes 101 series, we'll cover some additional resume sections that occasionally make an appearance. Consider this blog post your rapid primer on additional, optional sections for your IT resume.

We'll examine how to promote your language skills, volunteer experience, publications and presentations, as well as professional affiliations on your IT resume.


Adding Language Skills to Your IT Resume

As business becomes increasingly global, in development, production, shipping, and support, language ability becomes increasingly crucial. If you have language ability in something other than English, therefore, be sure to mention it. As with your technical skills section, though, you need to indicate the specific breadth of your ability. Your resume language skills should be listed with the descriptor word that represents the level of your proficiency.

There are four basic categories of language ability:



  • Conversational -- This term indicates basic language ability. You can order food, discuss the weather, ask someone where they're from, and engage in similar pleasantries. Beyond polite conversation, though, you're likely going to get lost. One year of college or two years of high school language training usually results in conversational ability.

  • Proficient -- Proficiency is a step up from conversational ability. You have higher command of verb tenses, and more sophisticated/varied sentence structure. You can modify language to match a situation, and use it effectively. While your vocabulary may still be limited (you might need a translation dictionary) you've internalized the basic structures.

  • Fluent -- If you're fluent, you can follow almost any conversation. If you can go to a dinner party, stay for several hours, and keep up with topics as they shift, consider yourself fluent. Another earmark of fluency is the ability to use figures of speech and other idioms, or to identify/imitate regional accents and dialects.

  • Native -- Use this designation if you grew up speaking a language, whether in the country where it is dominant, or in a bilingual (or monolingual) home. Native speakers are not only fluent in their languages, but are also proficient in the adages the language. Native speakers are also equally or more comfortable in their language as they are in English.

Note: In rare cases, if you have limited language ability overall, but language expertise in a specialized industry (computer hardware, for example) you can also indicate proficiency or fluency within that industry.

Finally, you may also want to indicate the way in which you're fluent: in speaking, writing, or reading. Reading and writing count as separate skill sets than speaking. Proficiency in writing and reading a language other than English are especially impressive skills to list on your resume. Also, if a job specifies language ability of one kind or the other, be sure to indicate that ability on your resume.


Including Volunteer Experience on Your IT Resume

If you have IT related work for which you weren't technically paid, there's nothing wrong with including that on your resume, especially if it shows familiarity with your target objective or industry. Volunteer experience can indicate a generous spirit, and a willingness to expand your horizons professionally.

Volunteer experience works best, though, if some kind of verifiable program solicited or sponsored the work. For example, spending your evenings helping senior citizens gain basic computer skills at a local recreation center is fine; mentioning that you helped your brother-in-law rebuild his desktop, however, is less impressive.

If you find yourself with something particularly remarkable or sustained in this section, by the way, ask yourself if it might be better suited for your work experience section. Consider the level of skills that you gained from the particular job to decide which section it belongs in within your resume. When describing the job as work experience, just be sure to indicate that it was, in fact, unpaid.


Publications and Presentations on Your IT Resume

If anything you've written has appeared outside of usual internal publications (things like instruction manuals, memos, company newsletters, and so on) you should definitely list it -- especially if there's a possibility that the hiring manager for your target position might have seen it.

Publications, whether online or (even better) in professional trade journals, can indicate an ability to distinguish yourself among a large field of people with similar skills, and are good reference points for hiring managers wanting to get a sense of you as a candidate.

The same can be said for any presentations you have given at conferences or trade shows. In addition to showing desirable traits like clear communication skills and confidence in front of a group, an effective conference presentation can indicate an ability to innovate and a profound sense of industry expertise.

When describing each of the above, you'll naturally want to be as specific as possible. For publications, list the date and location. For presentations, give the date, the title of the speech, and the forum. Again, we're talking about presentations or publications outside of your normal duties at work.

Even if you only have one publication or one presentation, it's still worth creating an independent section in this case. That's how impressive these accomplishments can be.


Listing your Professional Affiliations on Your IT Resume

If you have any professional affiliations -- particularly ones that indicate a willingness to keep on top of industry trends, or that demonstrate exclusivity -- you might want to include these here. Here are some examples:



  • The Institution of Information Technology Professionals

  • Association for Information Systems (AIS)

  • IEEE Computer Society

  • Society for Information Management

  • Association for Computing Machinery

Each of the above trade associations provides members with regular industry updates, as well as additional networking opportunities through conferences and publications. There are many more out there, of course.

If you're a member and you have the space, the information is worth including.


But Wait! There's More!

Even though this is the last article in our IT Resume 101 series, we'll still be providing regular updates about a wide variety of IT job search topics. In the upcoming weeks, for example, we'll feature an article about writing a first class cover letter. Check back soon!


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Alan Ackmann

Alan Ackmann teaches professional and technical writing at DePaul University in Chicago. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, and he is the author of the following Pluralsight Courses: Fundamentals of Written Proposals; Writing Process Instructions and Directions; and Resumes, Research, and Writing on the Job Hunt.