Future Plans Help

One thing that I found seems lacking in the big FIRST groups like the Discord and CD is a place or way for kids to get help with making themselves marketable for internships or jobs out of high school. FIRSTs goal is to get kids excited about stem and to be a sort of “high school league” for engineering and technology, but it feels odd that there isn’t any big support for people in terms of resume-making or cover letter-writing.

I’ll start, but if there are any other high schoolers or college students who want help starting work on anything related to their marketability, I’ll definitely try to help! I don’t have any special credentials outside of having worked with a few of my engineering mentors and several resume review sessions at my university.

Could anyone give me advice on my resume or on my Cover Letter Template?

I just know there’s a huge opportunity for students to get help from real professionals in industry, and it feels somewhat wasted right now.


This sounds like a great idea! I would be great to have increased support for FIRST students to get more help with job applications, resumes, and more. I know that, at least at our school, each student must go thorough 2 Career and Technology classes which go over resumes, cover letters, applications and more. This may or may not be true at other schools. I left some suggestions for on your resume.


Thank you for your help! There was some very limited resume support at my high school, but it definitely wasn’t very comprehensive and didn’t have any people who are actually in industry giving advice.

Yes! We help direct students STEM careers and let them figure out the rest.

You may want to remove your personal data from the documents you have posted. Put them back in when you are making a real application.

Go to your local library and read some current (published in last few years) books on resume writing and job hunting. Read the reviews of the books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble to find the better books. The practices have changed in small, subtle ways over the last 35 years.

In your resume, think through each accomplishment you listed and find a way to rewrite it to show what value that accomplishment brought to the organization. If possible, include some quantitative measure of your accomplishment i.e. reduced manufacturing time by 15%, increased reliability by 20%, improved customer satisfaction survey results by 10%.

If there are multiple accomplishments of a similar nature, combine them into one bullet point.

If possible, add some soft skills such as leadership qualities, communication skills, time management and risk management. These should not be a problem if you held any leadership position on a FIRST team.

The cover letter should be one page long. It is said that, When screening applications, people spend around 15 seconds on each application. They will spend more time to read through the applications that made it through the screening process. It should point out a few of the accomplishments and skills that are most relevant to the job description. Indicate clearly what position you are applying for in the first sentence. Remove any references to how you can benefit from the position you are applying for. Remove any references to skills and accomplishments that all applicants should posses i.e. “I have considerable engineering experience”. End with a request to meet to discuss how you can add value to the organization.

A resume and application letter are not for the applicant to brag about how smart they are and what they did in the past. They are to provide evidence that you can make a positive contribution and make them interested in meeting you.

Consider having different resumes for different jobs that emphasize different aspects of what you have to offer. Application letters should be customized for each job.

Think about it from the hiring manager’s point of view, “I am busy. Is this candidate going to help make me look good to my boss?”

Lastly, if someone joined a FIRST team and really didn’t do anything, they should not mention FIRST. A friend disqualified a candidate with a very attractive at the interview when they could not remember the team name and could not remember what he did as a team member.


My guess is that the reason we don’t see a ton of this on the forums is that there isn’t huge demand. I think this guidance is largely being provided to students by their own mentors - it’s not a “wasted opportunity”, just an opportunity that’s playing out outside of public internet forums.

Mentors from my high school team often help former students (including me!) get internships at their companies during college. As a mentor now, I’ve helped students with college application essays and internship resumes, and several times agreed to be a reference. For the most part, mentors don’t want to

We want to help our students be successful in any way we reasonably can, and I think it’d be rare to find a mentor who wouldn’t help a student (or former student) with their resume. I think a mentor who’s worked closely with a student is able to provide much better and more personalized guidance than a stranger on the internet.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to set up some support for students who don’t have mentors who can help them - if you feel you would benefit from it, there’s probably others who are in the same boat.

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This is totally true. I just also know that there are a lot of teams (like my first team) that really don’t have that support from mentors. I feel that something like this will encourage them to seek out help from people in online groups. I’ve had my mentors look over my resume, and they gave me tons of great advice.

The goal with this is just to encourage students everywhere to reach out to their mentors and mentors online for more help.

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I’ve thought to make an alumni LinkedIn group for our team, to foster more opportunities for recent HS grads from previous members. The value of the network would totally depend on the team, with rookies having zero alumni. Others might depend on if students have local options and a more structure path to similar careers as prior students.

Because you have a limited network, you don’t cover begin to cover potential opportunities. You can get better coverage by expanding the network (like FRC grads in Michigan or FRC grads in USA), but each expansion the connections between people in the network are weaker typically.

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While some mentors do help students in their careers beyond their involvement as a team member, it is an informal thing. We are more likely to put into action the things we talk about so I feel it is a good thing to discuss issues such as this more.

There is a place for personalized guidance and there is a place for guidance from strangers. The suggestions I posted are culled from reading a fair number of books and articles on job hunting. All of those authors are strangers to me and most of the people who read their writings.

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Networking can be very helpful when looking for a job. People I had previously worked with provided the opportunity to apply for three of my nine full-time jobs.

When meeting with an alumni this past summer to help him with his job hunting, I told him to ask his classmates where they got jobs. They may want more than one recently graduated ME. The EE’s and programmers would not be competing with him for the same jobs (an ME) and often if a company is hiring for one discipline, they are hiring for others.

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Hey, someone messaged me with a great looking resume template. If anyone needs a template to start from this is a great place: Generic Resume Template.docx (20.9 KB) . The format is really strong here, and it should be very easy to modify. If you’re writing a resume as a high schooler/college student, you need to make 110% sure that it’s only one page long. Remember that recruiters are only going to be willing to spend so much time looking at your resume, and you want to make sure they see the good part of it.

Since I just went through this during most of this year after being laid off from a 20+ year career, one big point I’ll make is to run your resulting resume through one or more of the various free “checking services” that you find on the Internet. Monster has one that gave the same results as the 5 or so that I ran mine through. Most companies now use automated parsing software that tears your resume apart and only the ones that the software deems to be “good” are even seen by a pair of human eyes, and even then probably not even the hiring person yet. I only found that out in the past couple of months after 7 months of, “Why am I not getting any calls?” Once, I changed the formatting to be cleanly parsed via the software, without removing any data at all, I can’t stop the calls/emails even though I had been nicely offered by a company a month ago where resumes go straight to the hiring person. Slight change in career, but much more stable and as a bonus, they are awesome with my FIRST volunteering.


I think you don’t see as much discussion on this since both CD and Discord really tend to focus in on the robot and team building of FRC. You also aren’t going to have a lot of resume “experts”. Discord is made up largely of current students who haven’t done a lot of resume writing and my anecdotal experience is that a lot of mentors have had the same job for a long time and/or are not in management positions where they regularly see resumes.

@philso gives a lot of good advice in his post. As much as possible you want your resume to highlight your accomplishments. If your experience sounds like a generic job description it says nothing about what you personally did and why you are the best choice for an opportunity. I also want to echo not using valuable resume space to list common skills all applicants would possess. Good engineering managers, for example, won’t care if you list you can use Windows and Microsoft Excel because it is assumed all candidates can. What would matter is if you possess above normal skill sets with these, such as a strong understanding of pivot tables and index match functions in Excel or the ability to manage Windows systems through command line and registry edits.

One of the most basic ways to stand out; good editing. If your resume is free of punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors you are already in the upper tier of resume submissions in terms of quality (you would not believe how common it is for errors to be on resumes hiring managers receive). Add a solid layout and use of white space (don’t make your resume too packed with text!) and you get a good first impression that gives you an edge when experience is similar.

One of my favorite sources for work advice in general is the Ask A Manager blog by Alison Green (mild warning, there is some use of profanity and discussion of mature topics when they get brought up in the context of the workplace. HR has a lot to deal with!). She has lots of solid advice not just on getting a job but also on navigating workplace norms and how to handle situations effectively in a management role if your career takes you there. Some of the best articles that would be helpful to anyone conducting a job search are how to write an effective resume and cover letter, why you aren’t getting job interviews, and how to write accomplishments on a resume when you don’t have measurable results (which is basically, how would someone mediocre do your job? Write out how you were better). The comments on a lot of these articles are also really insightful.

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I’ve done a reasonable amount of interviewing and hiring for deeply technical jobs so I’ll throw some advice out there. I’ll use your resume as an example but hopefully the advice is general enough that others can get something from it. Most of where I’m coming from is after resumes have made it through automated searches and past HR or whoever keeps losing all the good resumes for no reason.

What I would consider, both for the cover letter and the resume, is to remember that you’re trying to tell a story. That is, the goal isn’t to mess with margins and text size to fit in everything you’ve ever done. Instead, it is to build a coherent, consistent picture of who you are (in a professional sense - keep the hobbies out unless they’re career-adjacent). In this case, sometimes less is more.

For example, in this resume I’m not sure exactly what position you’re looking for. You’re going for a CS degree, but at the same time there’s lots of mechanical or manufacturing skills highlighted. You seem to have 3 types of skills listed - data analysis, mechanical design/build and some control systems type coding. All are interesting skills - but how do they fit together into the jobs you’re interested in?

Here’s where the objective helps. Use that to tell me what you want to do. Right now, it is too generic … that’s not terrible, but it is using space that could have more concrete info. It could be condensed to “Want an internship next summer” and not lose much actual info. Take out the redundant parts - e.g. the companies already know the jobs they are hiring for - and instead state how you want turn your interesting combination of skills into a career. This gives a framework for how the reader will interpret these somewhat diverse skills against the job requirements.

For cases where it is obvious - e.g. my resume would have 100% programming / computer engineering job experience - it is OK to leave this section out entirely and use the space for useful stuff.

The other part of building a coherent picture is leaving stuff out. It is awfully temping to put everything in there, but lots of stuff is just going to be ignore. As you’re editing, ask yourself if this information adds to the story of the job you are looking to tell.

An example others have mentioned, the Office skills either need to be something unusual & related to the job you want - VBA scripting for data analysis, etc - or left out. Do you really want a job where you were picked specifically because you can type Word documents? If not, that is taking up space which could add skills that get you the job you want.

I’d be cautious about putting management under skills. That typically means people management in a professional setting. From experience, that’s way different than technical team leadership. That’s true even in corporate jobs, much less a FIRST team. Keep it in if you have e.g. managed at a fast food place or something, ditch it if you were a team lead on a FIRST team.

For things like public speaking, get ready to have an answer when an interviewer asks about it. Have a convincing story about how you’ve studied / practiced to be an above average public speaker, including who and where you presented at/to.

As much as I’d hate to, I’d also cut the team-based awards from the FIRST section. Leave in the drive coach and other individual awards, but team-based awards don’t help as much. People who know what they are will realize they’re team-based, and people who don’t might ask and then wonder why you put them instead of individual accomplishments … they’re hiring you, not the whole team.

I’m not in the field, but do engineers typically run a mill or lathe? If not, the tool list in the first bullet of the FIRST experience might not be applicable to the job you’re trying to get.

And so on. Remember - not a laundry list of everything you’ve done since you were 13, instead a well-curated narrative showing a pattern of being able to apply the skills required for the job you want.

Then with the extra space, add specifics. The goal here is to make it obvious you did the work rather than happened to be in the room while work happened. The more specific info you can add, the more obvious this becomes … just be ready to talk about the specifics in a phone screen or interview.

The second bullet under the undergrad research has me asking “what procedures”? That’s a chance to add detail to show you did something specific and learned from it.

You developed a cost-saving BoM - how much did you save? Percentages or dollars, whatever. No one is going to expect you to be saving 10s of millions of dollars, but they will be looking for you to have a feel for how much you saved. It’s a way to see if the work you did had value or if it was just playing around with numbers of a spreadsheet.

And so on.

Hope that helps.

I’ll end on the fact that a lot of this is a case where there are no right answers. So feel free to take and leave any advice that doesn’t seem to fit your particular situation - mine included. Good luck!


This is all super helpful! I actually changed majors into CS from ME/AE just a day or two ago, so that explains why there’s a bit of a convuluted picture, but this is super helpful as I work on refining it to apply to more Computer Science based internships. Thank you so much!

I am, at a startup (adds teaspoon of salt). I also drive a mill and a lathe (and a bandsaw and chopsaws) on a regular basis. I’m an engineer. Mentioning that you know how to do this sort of thing can be helpful, as an ME, once you convince the technicians that you actually do know something about it (by understanding what they say the FIRST time–when I was a tech the biggest issue we had was “deaf” engineers)–you can design stuff that can be built easily, and you’ll actually think about how to do it. As a CS? Not so much unless you want to end up as a CNC coder. That is a profession, actually.

I would definitely make a note that you were previously an ME student, at least for now–it’ll help potential employers understand your background.

A word on resumes: Mine is close to two pages. First page is contact info, a short list of skills, and my last three technical jobs (coincidentally, my last three jobs) with a short description of what I worked on. My second page is a shorter description of a couple of other jobs, and individual honors/awards/robotics stuff. Plain, simple.

But for my work, I do have to do interviews on occasion, and I always look at resumes if they’re available. ALWAYS. I’ll tend to ask two types of questions: Clarification/description of a resume item (“Tell me more about X, and what specifically did you do with it”), and some mechanical “check questions” as I call them where I test your mechanical knowledge (if appropriate). We’ve had several candidates come through that somehow missed some rather basic concepts (example: Don’t try to tell me a QR code is RF, particularly when I happen to know that you worked at a place that has QR codes on RF badges–and I’m a MechE.) So make sure that if you claim something on your resume, you can actually talk about it.

Oh, right: It SHOULD go without saying, but always be as honest as you can diplomatically be. I can do basic practical wiring if I know what goes where–but I wouldn’t trust myself to actually design a circuit. And that’s what I’d tell anybody who was asking. So I’m not going to put much electrical stuff on my resume (at least for now–I’m learning).


I did the same thing. I ended up having two different versions of my resume, one that was a ME/CS hybrid for companies where some mechanical background would be helpful (aerospace companies, defense contractors, etc), and another resume that was purely CS for more pure “tech” companies.

In both cases, I left out the less relevant mechanical work/extracurricular experience in exchange for more in-depth descriptions of technical coding projects I had done, both personal and in-classroom.

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Most people have access to Microsoft WORD. It has a spell checking and grammar checking functions that are pretty easy to use so there is no excuse to lose a job opportunity because of bad spelling or grammar. There is also a function called Readability (in my WORD 2007). It shows passive voice sentences that are usually better off rewritten in the active voice.

The checker also gives a Reading Grade Level based on factor such as the length of the words, length of sentences, number of clauses in a sentence etc. You may have to go into Settings to turn it on. Some people have a tendency to write with long, run-on sentences with many dependent clauses. It is probably best to aim at something around Grade 6 to 9 level. Remember, the people screening your resume and application letter will typically only spend about 40 seconds on them because they are usually busy. You don’t want to make “too hard to read” a reson for putting them in the round file.

Not typically but some of the ME’s I am currently working with can do it and it greatly speeds up our prototyping time since we don’t have to send the piece out to get 4 holes drilled in it.

If one has a high level of proficiency with such machine tools and/or other manufacturing processes, it can be highlighted in a way to emphasize one’s understanding of Design for Manufacturability (DFM). I have worked with people who design stuff that is difficult (expensive) to manufacture and/or difficult to manufacture with consitent good quality and it was very painful. Smart employers look for people who understand DFM and DFS (Design for Servicability).

Sometimes, it is good to state the benefit the company got from your accomplishment but to leave out the details about how you did it. On the one hand, it keeps your resume brief. On the other hand, the prospective employer finds that particular type of result attractive, they will have to invite you to an interview to find out how you did it, giving you the opportunity to explain further how your expertise can help them. It’s sort of a teaser :wink:

To piggyback off of this, some good advice I once got was:

  1. Don’t put a project on your resume unless you’d be happy to talk about it in the interview (i.e. don’t put it on if you didn’t finish it, your teammates did most of the work, it was so long ago you don’t remember it very well, etc), and
  2. Don’t put a skill on your resume unless you’d be happy to take a job where you have to use it (i.e. if you learned a particular programming language but hate working in it, or if you know how to do CAD but you’re not open to taking an internship where they give you CAD work).

I work at a well-established company (not a start-up); we have an in-house machine shop to make parts for our prototypes, but the wait time is typically at least a week. We also have a smaller engineering machine shop, and if you can mill or lathe a part yourself and save a week of schedule (especially as an intern) your manager will be pretty happy. In line with what I said above - if you’re open to an internship where you design and machine parts, I think it’s applicable; if you’re looking for pure CS leave it out.