How to Write a Resume That Stands Out

You finally found it! The perfect job for you. Now, all you have to do to get the process started is to submit your resume. The problem is that hundreds of your peers are probably thinking exactly the same thing. How do you stand out?

You finally found it! The perfect job for you. Now, all you have to do to get the process started is to submit your resume. The problem is that hundreds or even thousands of your peers are probably thinking exactly the same thing about exactly the same job. So how do you create a one-page document that will make you and your accomplishments stand out from the crowd?

Your resume is a key part of the job application process: it is the first document that an employer reviews to determine whether they will interview and eventually employ you. Remember that employers often have very limited time to perform this duty. Crafting a strong resume really matters!

Resumes communicate who you are and what you have accomplished. They may be the only document an employer sees to evaluate your record before making a decision to move forward with your application, or they may be used in conjunction with resources like LinkedIn or professional networking profiles and/or a cover letter. A resume that “stands out” in a positive way is one that has been written thoughtfully, clearly and concisely, effectively communicating your abilities and strengths in a very brief space.

Six basic tips will help you build an outstanding professional resume. Note that resumes may vary by professional field (e.g. engineering vs. non-engineering), by location or by other factors such as professional degree. These tips are designed around some of the most common sections and most useful points for resumes across different types.

Tip 1: How to Write an Education Section that Stands Out

The education section demonstrates that you have the academic qualifications for the position. The key questions you should ask yourself while writing this section is, “Have I clearly communicated the strongest and most relevant aspects of my educational experience?” The next question is, “Is this section organized in a way that is easily readable by the employer?”

The education section is important for all applicants but may be weighted differently depending on how long it has been since you graduated from a degree program. For instance, an employer may have a different level of interest in the educational history of a college senior, compared to someone who has been professionally working for several years after college. Understanding this fact may influence where you choose to place this section on your resume.

In general, you should include all of the higher education that you may have had, including undergraduate, graduate, or professional schooling.  You may also consider including online courses, certificates, and completed programs through companies like Coursera. Most people list their experiences in an order called reverse chronological, meaning that they list the most recent experience first, and work backwards down the page.

For each listed school, provide the full name of the school or online program, the years of your attendance, your major or majors, if applicable, as well as a minor if applicable. Include the type of degree received (e.g. a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science) and the year of graduation. If you are graduating soon, include the month and year of graduation so employers know when you will be available to work. If you have studied abroad, include the institution, program of study, and any relevant coursework.

You may want to include which semesters you qualified for special academic recognition, if any.  Other special awards, scholarships, or competitive grants can also be listed in this section. If you have non-academic awards, such as for sports or community service, you may choose to create a separate section of your resume for honors and awards.

Tip 2: How to Make the Experience Section Stand Out

Along with education, your experience is one of the most important ways to show that you are qualified for a position. Use this section to clearly convey your strongest professional experiences, whether paid or unpaid. Be sure to give detailed aspects of your roles and responsibilities for each listed position. Emphasize any relationships or similarities between your past experiences and the job you want. You should also include the start and end dates of your involvement with each organization, and any key accomplishments from the role. Don’t forget to include where the company is located, including city and state/province, or even country if different from your home country.

Ask yourself: while involved with the company, did I win any awards, get any special recognition, make new discoveries, start a new program? If so, what happened and what were the results? Quantify your experiences when you can! As the expression goes, “Show don’t tell.” In other words, you can more effectively convey a point by giving concrete examples, rather than through vague descriptions. Consider the following examples.

Instead of:

Improved worker productivity significantly, leading to recognition from upper management.

(A resume reader may ask: What does ‘improved’ mean? What does recognition mean? How much have you improved it by?)

Improved quarter returns by 25%, exceeding projections and leading to the Top Manager Award, given to only one manager in the company per year.

When it comes to language, be honest about your job functions while thinking of professional ways to present your experiences.

Sometimes people fall into a trap of thinking that their job or internship experience won’t sound impressive enough to list. The job may have felt like “sitting at a desk, answering the phone.” True, but you may have been performing other responsibilities or developing useful job-related skills without realizing that you were!

When you were at a desk, were you at the FRONT desk? Were you the only person or the main person in this position? Were you overseeing anything while you were sitting there? Were you the sole person responsible for any tasks? Did you have to learn how to deal calmly and confidently with any customer issues? Did people occasionally ask you to take on additional responsibilities, even for a short time?

It is fair to say that a person sitting at a front desk, may have been MANAGING the front desk, or even managing the desk when the person’s boss was away. Time during which an individual is placed in charge of a business or an office, even if for a limited time, can convey responsibility to a prospective employer.

Look at your accomplishment bullet and ask yourself:

  • What did I do in the job?
  • Using what?
  • To what extent or impact?

Sometimes you may need to pare down your list in order to avoid making your resume too lengthy. Try to select the accomplishments based partly on how impressive they are and partly on how well they relate to the position you want. To describe your experience, always use more than one sentence or bullet. That said, word economy in your bulleted descriptions is also important. Try to keep each bulleted description or sentence to one or two lines at most. You can often rephrase a description, eliminating words while keeping the meaning. The more information you can present clearly and concisely within the short resume format, the more the employer will understand what you can do for them.

Remember that by providing relevant details in each statement of your experience, you will give the employer enough information to evaluate you and also provide them with ideas of what they might want to discuss with you in an interview.

Tip 3: How to Create a Leadership and Activities Section that Stands Out

For many people, especially students and recent graduates, a Leadership & Activities section can be a fantastic differentiator for your resume. If you have not been in the workforce for long, or if you have only worked summers and part-time, then you may not have much relevant content to add to your Experience section. A strong Leadership & Activities section can help you fill that gap while also telling an employer something about you as a person.

When creating the section, you should first consider what student organizations and activities you would want to include. Then, you should consider what you would want to write about each one. In general, this section is much like the Experience section, except that it is about what you have done in a personal, rather than professional, setting.

Of course, because student organizations and activities are personal, you should be careful about which ones you choose to list; they should be appropriate to a professional setting. For example, you should probably not choose to share that you were chosen “Top Drinker” of your college’s “Beer Keg of the Day” club. On the other hand, if you volunteered at a food bank, wrote for a school publication, or had a membership in an honor society, those accomplishments would be worth sharing.

Most importantly, you should include student organizations and activities where you have made significant contributions or held leadership positions. Just as you did in the Experience section, you should think about what you did in the organization, any responsibilities you had, any skills you used, and any knowledge you gained. If you made improvements to the student organization or activity, definitely include concrete examples. Make sure to consider if any of your experiences with student organizations and activities could be related to the position you are applying for. Could any of the skills you have learned be useful in the job?

Because student organizations and activities can offer students leadership opportunities and experiences that are often limited to experienced professionals in companies, this section is your chance to show not only that you are qualified for the position but that you have even greater potential. Make the most of this opportunity to show the employer what you can do!

Tip 4: How to Highlight Your Skills

Another important component of what defines an attractive candidate in the modern economy is their skill set. Because employers want people who can quickly start being productive, they care about what skills a job prospect has, particularly in certain technical fields. In most cases, skills are incorporated into the Experience section, if you acquired skills as part of your internship or job, and in the Education section, if you obtained the skills through coursework, research, or projects. Sometimes people with additional skills, such as technical skills, foreign language, or certifications obtained outside of university, will place them into a separate section at the end of the resume. Whichever format you choose, you still need to emphasize the skills you have, so that an employer can easily see how you can help them.

You should ask yourself a few important questions. What skills do I have? What skills are my target employers looking for? Are my skills hard skills (i.e. technical, like computer programming) or soft skills, such as the ability to listen?

Make a list! Separate the skills into hard skills and soft skills. What skills are most in demand (on both lists) for the position you are interested in (One good way to decide this is to look at job listings for many similar positions and note how often a particular skill is listed.)? How can you highlight your proficiency in these skills?

Lead with your strongest skills and/or the ones that seem the most marketable. Let’s say you know the programming language Python. How well do you know it? How many years have you used it? Do you have any specialized knowledge and ability that may set you apart from a competing applicant? Do you have demonstrations of your work anywhere for a prospective employer to see?

Here’s an example of a skills entry that might be included into the Experience section:

Programming: 8 years of experience with Python and similar scripting languages, wrote MyFirstPythonProject software available on GitHub

Useful tip: Artists may have portfolios for their artistic work. Examples of appropriate work, such as for coding, may not be a bad idea to have available in addition to a resume!

Even if your field is not technical, you may still have important hard skills. Do you have experience with popular office software, such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Access? Do you know any foreign languages, even at a basic level? Think about not only what might be required in the day-to-day performance of the job, but what other skills could potentially be useful to the employer.

You will want to include all the relevant skills to demonstrate your qualifications, without including too much less-relevant information which could distract from your message. Think carefully about which skills you want to include, and which could be left out. Remember to choose your words economically to maximize content in a minimum of space. With a little effort, your skills details can transform your resume from a simple list of accomplishments to a document that gets an employer thinking about all the great ways you could contribute!

Tip 5: Formatting and Making the Resume Look Professional

Believe it or not, the appearance and organization of a resume can greatly affect the response. The first hurdle for any resume is to get the employer to read it. An attractively presented, concise resume is easy for a recruiter to pick up. On the other hand, if a resume is 5 pages, written in 6-point font, a prospective employer may not think that it is worth the time to find a magnifying glass and read it. In most cases, a resume should not exceed one page (sometimes two pages, mostly for more experienced candidates, or in scientific and technical fields where publication lists can be lengthy), which has a few key sections that are separated from one another or clearly delineated.

Here are some suggestions to make the format stand out positively:

  • Use 10-12-point font or larger. (10 point may even sometimes be too small, and the choice can depend on the chosen font.) Your audience should easily be able to read the size of the writing. Often prospective employers may not have perfect vision, so readability may create problems if the text is too small.
  • Use a clean, professional-looking font. Don’t use fonts that are overly artistic and hinder the ability for the reader to understand them. Some find fonts like Times New Roman most clearly readable; others find competing fonts better. The font is just an aspect of the writing; don’t let it overpower the words themselves.
  • Use respectable margins. Don’t try to deviate too much from 0.5 margins at either side. Also, don’t make the margins too large, beyond 0.75 or 1 unit on either side. Around 1 unit on the top and bottom should be acceptable.
  • Use adequate spacing.
  • Abbreviate months of employment.
  • Include proper contact information. Most people include full name, address, email address and at least one phone number at the top of the document.

Tip 6: Revision and Review 

One of the most important steps to writing a good resume is having others you trust look it over. A small spelling or grammar error on a resume could cause problems by making it seem like you lack attention to detail.

You can start with standard spelling and grammar checking programs. However, while these programs are very helpful, they are not enough by themselves. For example, the programs may not flag errors with homophones (e.g. hair and hare). They also have difficulty with uncommon, technical, or foreign words that may not be in their dictionaries. In addition, they are not looking for formatting inconsistencies or at the overall appearance of the resume. While computer programs can help with many issues, there is still no substitute for the human eye.

Start by printing a copy of your resume and looking for errors and inconsistencies yourself. Then, present copies to others along with a description of the job or educational opportunity that you are applying for. When presenting your resume to others, consider at least two kinds of people: a peer, and an experienced professional or teacher. Each may identify different issues with the resume.

Ask the reviewers to provide two types of notes: technical revisions and feedback on the writing, organization and effectiveness of the resume.

Once you get feedback, discuss it with them for a few minutes. Remember, don’t take constructive criticism personally! They are trying to help you, and their points of view may be similar to that of the employer. Your goal is to create a resume that most people will appreciate.

Once you obtain proper feedback, you can work on improving your resume. Try to incorporate your reviewers’ suggestions. Their ideas may even make you think of other ways to improve your resume! Most importantly, always remember that once you have made your revisions, review your resume again before you send it out!

The stronger your resume, the better your chance of getting an interview and landing a meaningful job. Just by following these simple tips, you will be well on your way to resume success, creating a clear, detailed, and concise document designed to impress employers. So, get writing and get yourself noticed!

A good resume can help you land an interview, but even minor errors can take you out of the running.  Schedule an appointment with a counselor  to ensure it will be effective.

Quick Resume Tips:

  • Use the position description to decide what to include.
  • Pick a standard and consistent format.
  • Describe your experiences with specificity and strong action verbs.
  • Record accomplishments and contributions, not just responsibilities.
  • Revise carefully!
  • Don’t include personal information about your age, religion, health or marital status.
  • Photos are generally not preferred for U.S. resumes.
  • Typically, you will not be expected to share past salary information on a resume.
  • Employers assume that “references will be available upon request,” so you don’t need to include them on your resume unless asked.
  • Employers may use keyword scanning on resumes, so know what words are relevant to the industry and position and ensure they appear in your resume.

How to Write a Great Resume and Cover Letter

Linda Spencer offers helpful tips and resources to help you write your resumé and cover letter.

What makes a great résumé and cover letter? Linda Spencer, associate director and coordinator of career advising at Harvard Extension School, shares examples of a few strong résumés and explains what makes them stand out.

Perfect Your Marketing Documents

Spencer stresses it’s important to know that your résumé and cover letter are marketing documents. Also keep in mind that the average employer takes about seven seconds to review these documents. They’re not reading: they’re skimming. So you need to make it clear right off the bat how you can add value.

Strong résumés don’t have to be lengthy. One to two pages that feature your most top accomplishments works well.

Use Action Words and Customize Your Pitch

When highlighting your professional experience, use accomplishment statements rather than descriptions of your role. Start with an action verb. Then detail the impact that action had: Did you increase, decrease, modify, or change anything in your work? Finally, be sure to quantify the accomplishments. Data helps.

Your cover letter should be one page, highly customized to each position you’re applying for. It answers two questions: why are you the right fit for the position? And how will you add value to the organization?

While it’s important to have a strong résumé and cover letter, it’s also important to remember that the number one job search strategy is networking. You don’t want to simply be reactive, applying blindly to job postings. You want to conduct a series of informational meetings so that you build a network of people you can reach out to when it comes time to start your job search.

Any Extension student can attend first-come, first-served 15-minute call-ins (via phone or Skype) with Linda. See Career Services for more information.

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Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Apply online today to be considered–and please be advised, only applicants on HarvardCareers can be considered.

Harvard Business School seeks a full-time Predoctoral Fellow to support two faculty members in the Accounting and Management unit. The successful candidate will have a strong foundation in finance and accounting. Research will explore topics related to financial reporting, (accounting) information, and valuation for PE/VC funds and their investments and startups. Candidates who are interested in pursuing a PhD in accounting or finance are particularly encouraged to apply.

The Predoctoral Fellow position reports directly to a faculty supervisor and administrative manager in the Research Staff Services office. Ideal candidates will be comfortable in an environment that requires a high level of independence, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to use discretionary judgment.

Primary Duties

  • Work under the general direction of HBS faculty on topics central to HBS research agenda. Provide subject-area knowledge, analysis and interpretation to faculty member. Identify and explore a wide-range of questions related to faculty’s research agenda.
  • Manage, manipulate, and summarize large data sets, scrape and collect data from complex online sources, perform analyses and regressions, and create visualizations.
  • Develop, design, conduct, analyze, and implement research using data science knowledge and prior knowledge of requested statistical packages, particularly in Stata and python.
  • Ensure compliance with department, University, and federal regulations. Complete work with only general direction. Be aware of department, School, University policies and potential outside research policies.
  • Under general direction of faculty member, must be able to take complex research ideas, concepts, and methodologies and apply them to new projects and situations. Must be able to structure assignments and keep faculty member informed as necessary, using own judgment.
  • Responsible for other duties as assigned

Basic Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree with a focus in business (accounting or finance), statistics, economics or related field required.
  • Demonstrated experience using STATA and python for data cleaning and statistical analysis.

Additional Qualifications and Skills

Excellent skills related to the Microsoft Office Suite are expected. Evidence of academic excellence. Proven evidence of independent research in specific advanced field of study. Evidence of prior high-quality, original academic writing, and background in analysis and interpretation of relevant data, research, news, and literature is helpful. Ability to read academic, subject-specific information and write a reasoned and thoughtful analysis, as well as produce a creative interpretation, is a must.

The candidate must have extremely high standards in terms of quality of work, attention to detail, strong organization skills, and absolute commitment to task completion. Must be able to balance multiple tasks and shifting priorities under tight deadlines at an accelerated pace when necessary. It is helpful if the candidate is familiar with navigating a complex organization, such as Harvard Business School.

Additional Information:

This is a term appointment starting July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025, with an expectation of reappointment until June 30, 2026 based on funding and performance. All Predoctoral Fellow roles at HBS are structured as one-year term appointments, but faculty strongly prefer candidates willing to commit for two years.

This role is offered as a hybrid (some combination of onsite and remote) where you are required to be onsite at our Boston, MA based campus 2-4 days per week. Specific days and schedule will be determined between you and your manager.

The recruiting process is rolling. Applications will be reviewed as they are received, now through spring. Candidates with external deadlines should notify the recruiter as soon as possible.

Our salaries–combined with comprehensive benefits, generous paid time-off, access to education and professional development, and a vibrant campus with abundant cultural and recreational opportunities–create a competitive and compelling total rewards package.

We may conduct candidate interviews virtually (phone and/or via Zoom) and/or in-person for this role.

A cover letter is required to be considered for this opportunity. All candidates will be expected to submit a writing sample, transcript, and a code sample to be reviewed by an HBS statistician.

Harvard Business School will not offer visa sponsorship for this opportunity.

Culture of Inclusion: The work and well-being of HBS is profoundly strengthened by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and life experiences. Explore HBS work culture at https://www.hbs.edu/employment/.

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  1. Harvard College Resumes & Cover Letter Guide

    Harvard College Resumes & Cover Letter Guide. A resume is a concise, informative summary of your abilities, education, and experience. It should highlight your strongest assets and skills, and differentiate you from other candidates seeking similar positions. View Resource.

  2. PDF Harvard College Guide to Resumes & Cover Letters

    Always use your @college email account and check it frequently, even if you have enabled forwarding. Resume Sample. Firstname Lastname. If an employer asks for your SAT/ ACT scores or GPA, include in your Education section. 17 Main Street • Los Angeles, CA 92720 • [email protected] • (714) 558-9857.

  3. How to Use the Harvard Resume Template (Guide and Examples)

    You should use the Harvard resume template when you're applying to highly formal jobs that put an emphasis on your achievements. For example, the Harvard resume template would be helpful if you're applying to any of the following roles: Management and executive. Consultants. Academic positions.

  4. How to Write a Resume That Stands Out

    Abbreviate months of employment. Include proper contact information. Most people include full name, address, email address and at least one phone number at the top of the document. Tip 6: Revision and Review . One of the most important steps to writing a good resume is having others you trust look it over.

  5. How to Write a Résumé That Stands Out

    How to Write a Résumé That Stands Out. Summary. It can be hard to know how to make your resume stand out. Start by accepting that it's going to take some time and effort. Don't try to sit ...

  6. PDF OCS COVER LETTERS RESUMES

    Create a Strong Resume. GETTING STARTED • Draft a resume using one of the. templates on the OCS website. • Attend a Resume Workshop. to learn the nuts and bolts of getting started. See the OCS events calendar for dates. • View the OCS Recorded Resume Webinar on our website. • Get advice via drop-ins. Monday-Friday, 1:00-4:00pm - ask quick

  7. PDF OCS COVER LETTERS RESUMES

    Resume Sample Firstname Lastname If an employer asks for your SAT/ ACT scores or GPA, include in your Education section. 17 Main Street • Los Angeles, CA 92720 • [email protected] • (714) 558-9857

  8. AI: Resumes and Cover Letters

    Optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems. It is no secret that many employers, especially those which receive a high number of applications, use applicant tracking systems to scan resumes and cover letters for certain keywords or phrases. ... Harvard University 54 Dunster Street Cambridge, MA 02138 617-495-2595 [email protected] ...

  9. PDF CVs and Cover Letters

    OFFICE OF CAREER SERVICES. Harvard University • Harvard College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 54 Dunster Street • Cambridge, MA 02138 Telephone: (617) 495-2595 • www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu. GSAS: CVs and Cover Letters. CVs and Cover Letters. GSAS: Graduate Student Information. www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu.

  10. PDF Resumes & Cover Letters: A Harvard Extension School Resource

    Harvard Extension School on Your Resume RESUMES AND COVER LETTERS. Write an Effective Cover Letter RESUMES AND COVER LETTERS Your cover letter is a writing sample and a part of the screening process. By putting your best foot forward, you can increase your chances of being interviewed. A good way to create a response-producing cover letter is ...

  11. How to Write a Great Resume and Cover Letter

    Network. While it's important to have a strong résumé and cover letter, it's also important to remember that the number one job search strategy is networking. You don't want to simply be reactive, applying blindly to job postings. You want to conduct a series of informational meetings so that you build a network of people you can reach ...

  12. The Only Resume Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need

    Published on September 7, 2022. The Only Resume Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need was originally published on Idealist Careers. A lot goes into drafting a good resume. You'll want to make sure you're using the best format to showcase your skills and achievements, that you've carefully edited each section, and that the information you include ...

  13. PDF Resume Guide

    When writing a resume, think about it from the employer's perspective and be sure to tailor your resume content to your reader and the job description. Prioritize and select information that ... //hsph-harvard-See Sample resumes in the Career Resources Library. What's the difference between a resume and a CV?

  14. How to Write a Resume That Stands Out

    How to Write a Resume That Stands Out. by. Paige Cohen. May 23, 2022. PC. Paige Cohen (they/them) is a senior editor at Ascend. It takes hiring managers less than 10 seconds to decide if you're ...

  15. PDF Guide to Writing Resumes, CVs and Cover Letters

    Use a 10-12 point font in a style like Arial, Calibri, Geneva, Helvetica or Times New Roman. Margins - Try to keep about 1" on all sides of the document, but edit to make your resume one page! Be consistent - If you put a heading in bold, make sure to put all of your headings in bold, etc.

  16. PDF RESUME/CV GUIDE

    writing a resume, think about it from the employer's perspective and be sure to tailor your resume content to your reader and the job description. Prioritize and select information that enhances your qualifications and only include what is pertinent to the position. Your resume or CV are personal marketing tools. Make

  17. Writing and Revision

    The Fellowships & Writing Center at Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is the best resource for GSAS students interested in producing clear, logical, persuasive, elegant, and engaging scholarly writing. In combination with their assistance and the latest guidance from your chosen manual of style, the old standards are as resonant as ever:

  18. "Metallurgical Plant "Electrostal" JSC

    Round table 2021. "Electrostal" Metallurgical plant" JSC has a number of remarkable time-tested traditions. One of them is holding an annual meeting with customers and partners in an extеnded format in order to build development pathways together, resolve pressing tasks and better understand each other. Although the digital age ...

  19. Nurse Resume Examples and Templates for 2024

    How To Write a Nurse Resume. An attention-grabbing nursing resume will showcase your nursing certifications, experience, and accomplishments. To drive your nursing career forward, use specific information about the type of nursing work you've done before, including data such as patient load, efficiency rates, satisfaction rates, and number of team members you supervised, if applicable.

  20. Judgment in Moscow

    Judgment in Moscow was an international bestseller published in nine languages, but has only now been published in English for the first time. It was previously at Random House, but Bukovsky refused to rewrite parts of the book which accused prominent Westerners of behind-the-scenes dealings with the Soviets. In this edition, the author quotes ...

  21. Finance/Accounting Predoctoral Fellow

    Excellent skills related to the Microsoft Office Suite are expected. Evidence of academic excellence. Proven evidence of independent research in specific advanced field of study. Evidence of prior high-quality, original academic writing, and background in analysis and interpretation of relevant data, research, news, and literature is helpful.

  22. Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis

    Timothy J. Colton Morris and Anna Feldberg Professor of Government and Russian Studies and Faculty Associate at Davis Center. Harvard University, 1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA 02138, 617-495-4345

  23. Thickness Changes and Ice-Ocean Interactions of the Totten ...

    Totten glacier discharges the largest volume of ice in East Antarctica. Much of the bedrock of its basin, and that of the nearby Moscow University glacier, lies beneath sea level, making them potentially unstable in case of perturbation at their termini. Here, our analyses of ICESat laser altimetry data show that between 2003 and 2008 the surface of Totten glacier and its ice shelf lowered by ...