Building Your Resume to Apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship



The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Since 2014, nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Fellowship. The Fellows, between the ages of 25 and 35, are accomplished leaders and have established records of promoting innovation and positive impact in their communities and countries. 

A successful candidate for the Mandela Washington Fellowship demonstrates an ability to get things done. Take a marketing approach to your resume that will command the ultimate amount of attention. Think about how you want the person who reads your resume to think of you.

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In preparing your resume, remember three important tips:

  1. Keep your answers brief.
  2. Write in the third person (do not use the pronoun “I”).
  3. Proofread your resume for grammatical and spelling mistakes.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare the information you will need for the required format of the Mandela Washington Fellowship resume:

  • Professional Experience: What professional experiences have you had? Make a list of paid or volunteer positions and summarize your work in these positions to give an instant picture of the breadth of your work or volunteer background.
  • Education: Have you received any type of formal education beyond secondary school? If so, make a list of the education and training you received from established universities, colleges or trade schools. Include the dates you attended these schools, what you studied, and what degrees or certificates you earned.
  • Professional Training: Did you receive professional training outside of an established educational institution? Name up to five relevant professional certifications and/or training courses you completed, including the type of training or the name of the certification and the city and country where the training occurred.
  • Community and Volunteer Work: In addition to your professional experience, do you perform unpaid work in your community? Make a list of your volunteer activities with local charities or NGOs and summarize your work with these organizations.
  • Honors and Awards: Have you been recognized for your efforts in something that you have done? List what honors or awards you have received, from which organizations, and for what type of work.
  • Professional Skills: Think about the skills you have acquired over time. What languages do you speak? Are you proficient in computer and software skills?
  • Publications, Conferences, and Notable Presentations: Were you a panelist in a discussion at your university? Include professional publications, conferences, or presentations you have participated in.
  • Associations, Affiliations, or Groups: You can also list any leadership groups or professional organizations, such as your role as the founder of a women’s leadership group.

Get Your Resume Noticed

Hiring managers get loads of resumes. Forbes magazine writer Jacquelyn Smith, in a column titled “Six Ways to Avoid the Resume Black Hole,” writes that applicants can make sure their resumes get noticed if they follow these tips.

  1. Network into the company. If you know someone in the company, you can ask that person to send your resume to the human resources department with a recommendation.
  2. Use keywords. Smith says human resources expert Rosemary Haefner advises applicants to use some of the same words and phrases that appear in the job posting in their resume in order to get it noticed. But, Haefner cautions applicant to not just “cut and paste the job posting into your resume or cover letter.”
  3. Have someone proofread your resume. Even a small typo may turn off an employer, Smith says. “Before sending your resume, have at least one person you trust review it so that it can have a better chance of catching the eyes of the employer.”
  4. Keep it simple. Avoid graphics, logos and other things that may distract the person reading the resume.
  5. Take an entrepreneurial approach to the job-search process. Research the company’s hiring process so you know which official does the hiring. Follow-up with a phone call.

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