Filling out a simple application may have been enough to snag that part-time summer job at the ice cream store during high school. But now that you’re in college, it’s time to graduate to a more advanced job-finding tool: the professional resume.
Creating your first resume can seem daunting, especially since your professional experience may be limited. But the sooner you master this skill, the sooner you’ll have a document you can easily send out whenever you happen upon an internship or employment opportunity.
When starting out, don’t be intimidated. No one expects a student resume to contain long lists of accomplishments, but you should have at least one or two. It should also convey your interests, goals and potential — all within one page. Use short, declarative phrases and action verbs instead of full sentences and try to keep the tone positive and upbeat.
Start by including your name, city of residence, email address and phone number — typically centered at the top, with your name in larger, bold font. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can include that, but be sure to leave out any other personal social media accounts. This is a professional document, not a showcase of your social connections.
You can also include a summary statement outlining your goals, but it isn’t necessarily required. Perhaps you’re an art major looking for a chance to develop your graphic design skills, a computer science major interested in work as a programmer or a marketing major seeking a chance to work on marketing campaigns. The key here is to demonstrate you already have some knowledge in a given field and are looking to expand it by gaining practical experience.
Stick to a traditional resume format, using a commonplace font such as Calibri or Arial. Save the crazy, hard-to-read fonts and wild colors for your art projects. Sure, you want your resume to stand out, but you want it to stand out for the information it contains, not its oddball appearance.
Next, add an education section. Make the entries reverse-chronological, beginning with your current studies. Be sure to include your degree objective and your planned date of graduation. Don’t forget to add your extracurricular activities, particularly teams and clubs. Employers want to see how you have been involved and what you do with your free time. Skills and accomplishments aren’t the only reasons people get hired. Employers also want to connect with their employees as people with talents and interests, not just robots to do a job. You can also add a bullet point about projects you completed at school. Don’t feel like you need to include every single one, but try to include projects that show specific skills you have acquired that are related to the job you are applying for. Maybe you led the planning of senior prom, or maybe you did market research for a local business. Those are examples of the accomplishments that set you apart and show what you can do if you professional experience is limited.
After education, add the professional experience section. This is the place to list any jobs you’ve had, even if they were babysitting or summer jobs. Include the beginning and ending dates and briefly list your main responsibilities. The idea is to demonstrate that you’re responsible, conscientious and can follow directions.
Including an accomplishments section can help paint a fuller picture of who you are. This is the place to note any awards or distinctions you have received. You can also include any high grade point averages, projects you completed at school or volunteer experiences. Basically, list things here you’re proud of or which would reveal aspects of your character to a potential employer. Try to use quantifiable support whenever possible. If you increased sales by 4% for your sales team over the summer, be sure to add that concrete, quantifiable number.
You may also include a skills section if you think it’s warranted. This is the place to list any computer software proficiencies you’ve used or office skills you’ve developed. Make sure the skills you list relate to the types of positions you’re seeking. For example, forklift driving would not be a useful skill for a sales position unless you’d be selling forklifts.
Finally, take time to edit and format your resume. A resume filled with typos and formatting errors does little to convey that you’re careful and conscientious. Have a friend or your parent proofread your resume to make sure you didn’t miss any typos and to get their opinion.
View your resume as a work in progress. It will remain an important professional tool throughout your work life, evolving and growing as you graduate college, get your first full-time job, and progress in your career.