Many college students and recent college graduates dread writing a resume. The intimidation factor can be significant when faced with the task of enumerating what may seem like limited skills and experiences in order to land your first real job.
Obviously, employers don’t expect college students or recent grads to have a lot of on-the-job experience – you’ve been busy studying. That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in hiring someone just out of the gates. At this stage in your resume writing, your focus should be on marketing what you’ve done in a fresh and intriguing way.
Here are some tips that will help you effectively market yourself to potential employers, no matter what your level of experience is:
- Describe Your Job Experience Right. If you’ve held jobs that are unrelated to the field you’re trying to enter, you can still list them. For jobs like retail work, food service or babysitting, your goal is to find a way to best market this experience. What did you do that was innovative, effective or above the call of duty? If you were promoted or earned accolades like “Employee of the Month”, include it. If you were given extra responsibilities, include them. Examples:
— Was responsible for making daily bank deposits of $10,000 for the highest-performing branch in the region.
— Held position of secretary at staff meetings.
— Earned a promotion to head cook after two months of employment.Don’t include things like: seated guests, served drinks, cleaned the work station.Stick to highlights and exclude obvious things that can be assumed about the job.
- Consider Two Categories for Job Experience. At this point in your life, you may have had limited job experience that’s related to your field of interest. If, however, you’ve already held a position that’s relevant, it may be better to create two categories: Relevant Experience and Other Job Experience.If you’re applying for a job at an investment bank and were previously employed at an investment bank, put that under Relevant Experience. Everything else will go under Other Job Experience. Employers often scan resumes for relevance and highlighting such moments makes it easier for them to spot it.
- Bullet points. Use bullet points to list responsibilities and accomplishments. They’re easy to read and prevent you from rambling.
- Extra-curricular activities. Don’t list every club and organization you’ve been involved in. Instead, choose the ones that are either related to the job you’re applying to (example: if you’re applying to a nonprofit and have volunteered at one, include that activity) or where you’ve held a leadership position (example: Student Body President, Captain of the Varsity Rowing Team, Editor of the Student Newspaper).
- Choose Action Verbs. When describing your experiences, use action verbs. Use the past tense or simple present if the activity is ongoing. Here’s a great action verb reference list.
- Use numbers. Numbers are the best kind of language for a resume. They quantify results and make your experiences concrete. If you’ve “managed a team of 12 volunteers” at a summer camp or “improved SAT scores by 80%” for students you tutored, or “raised $5,000 in 15 days” for a charity organization, then say it.
- Coursework. If you have coursework that’s related to the job you’re applying to, then list it. For example, if you’re applying to an international finance firm and took a course in international finance, it’s a go. If you’ve studied art history and are applying as a docent at a museum, list it. Include the title of the course, professor, and titles of term papers you’ve written or projects you’ve completed for this course.
- Achievements. Scholarships, awards, and GPAs all have a place on your resume. Only list your GPA if it’s above 3.0.
- Don’t Pad It. You may feel the need to fill out the one page by padding it with every possible experience or activity you’ve ever been involved in. Don’t. Most employers spend an average of 6 seconds looking at a resume. Therefore, a shorter, more succinct resume that includes relevant information is more effective than a long, meandering list.
- Proofread. Make sure there are no mistakes. Go over it a dozen times. Read it out loud. Have a friend read it. Then send it out.
These tips are meant to help you highlight your accomplishments and draw the attention of your potential employer. Be confident and don’t undersell your experiences.
Cari Bennette is an experienced writer and online content author. She works at JetWriters.com and manages editing processes and loves to provide students with advice on writing.