The one thing you can do in high school that will be on your résumé for life

The place: A job interview at a high-paying company.

The time: The not-too-distant future.

The interviewer leans back in her chair and begins reading through the applicant’s résumé. The applicant is in their 40s and has impressive work experience and relevant skills.

The interviewer gets to the section marked “activities and other experience” and starts to read aloud:

Let’s see:

  • B-plus student — oh, both semesters! — in Mrs. Martin’s Ninth Grade English Class
  • Runner-up in the 2007 Douglas County Watermelon Festival’s “Spittin’ Truth Essay Contest”
  • And, wow, it says here from 2008–09 you were treasurer of the Douglas High School Mario Kart Wii Club!

OK, thanks for stopping by. We’ll be in touch.

Annnd scene!

What just happened there?

Seen in the context of that kinda-ridiculous-but-maybe-not scenario, it’s pretty clear why the “accomplishments” you accrue in high school don’t belong on your résumé forever.

In high school, every win feels like a Super Bowl victory. Every loss is a pit of despair. But even those who conquered high school will tell you there’s an Impressiveness Expiration Date to your accolades.

At certain points, every single accomplishment in high school — from your GPA to your sports championships to your debate trophies — will go bad. They’ll expire.

Those high school achievements that got you into a great college or landed you that first job? They probably won’t matter when applying for grad school or your second job.

And by the time Job 3 or Job 4 rolls around? The high school chapter of your résumé, like your high school yearbook itself, should remain closed forever.

But there’s one exception. There’s one high school accomplishment that belongs on your résumé and LinkedIn profile from age 16 to age 60 and beyond: the Eagle Scout Award.

What is it about Eagle Scouts?

When you go into your favorite coffee chain and order your go-to caffeinated beverage, the barista is going to hand you the exact same drink every time. They’re following the same recipe in Portland, Ore.; Portland, Maine; and Portland, Tenn. (Does Portland, Tenn., have a Starbucks? There’s no way to know.)

That consistency — knowing what to expect when you see the sign outside — is refreshing.

The same philosophy applies to Eagle Scouts. Every Eagle Scout across the country and around the world (shoutout to our Scouts BSA troops overseas!) completes the same recipe of rigorous requirements.

That’s not to say every Eagle Scout is the same — only that they took similarly difficult paths toward their goal.

Every little circle on the merit badge sash represents a commitment of weeks or more. Every position patch tells a story of months of growth. And then there’s the most demanding requirement of all: the Eagle Scout service project.

Where else but Scouting might a young person plan, develop and give leadership to a gigantic act of service to their community? It’s pretty wild, when you think about it.

And it’s one of the reasons why the trail to Eagle Scout is completed by just one out of every 12 Scouts.

What do hiring managers think?

Hiring managers know the Eagle Scout Award means something big — even if they haven’t thought about Scouting since their own Pinewood Derby days.

Maybe you’ll get a hiring manager who is an Eagle Scout. That’s cool. You can swap Scouting stories.

But it’s actually just as promising if they’re not, because they might flag that line on your résumé and give you a chance to talk about Scouting.

It’s easy to imagine a question like this: “You graduated high school 20 years ago, but I see you included the Eagle Scout Award on your résumé. Why is that?”

You’ve now carved out a chance to break free from the mold of a typical interview and differentiate yourself from the other candidates.

Is the road to Eagle Scout an all-or-nothing journey?

I get it. Earning Eagle takes a lot of time.

I’ve interviewed Eagle Scout NBA players, astronauts and CEOs — all of whom managed to balance Scouting and other activities in high school. These famous Eagle Scouts didn’t do it all, though. As teenagers, they made strategic choices of where to devote their time.

That’s part of what those words “Eagle Scout” indicate to a hiring manager. In this era of instant gratification, they signal a person who — even at a young age — had the vision to set and achieve a goal that literally couldn’t be reached for years.

Let’s pause for a second.

This is about the point when I might start losing people who argue that “the Eagle Scout Award should not be the sole indicator of a successful Scouting experience.”

My response: You’re right!

Not everyone is going to finish that journey to Scouting’s highest rank. Statistically speaking, most aren’t!

What’s great about the BSA is that everyone can benefit from the Scouting program, whether they’re active for six months or six years. One Cub Scout meeting can introduce a child to a hobby that becomes a career. One Scouts BSA campout can help a young person conquer a fear.

It all counts.

How can Eagle Scouts leverage that line on their resume?

So you’ve decided to keep “Eagle Scout” on your résumé for life. Great call!

But what happens when a recruiter asks you about that bullet point during an interview? What are the best ways to describe your Scouting past?

You probably don’t need my advice. After all, you’ve earned the Communication merit badge.

But two years ago, I put together this guide to including Scouting experience on a job or college application. I hope it’s helpful.

And I hope all my fellow Eagle Scouts keep those impressive words on their résumés for life.

Further reading

A few years back, my colleague Michael Freeman wrote about when to include “Eagle Scout” on your résumé. Revisit that post here.

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