When you're in college, creating a resume may not seem like a top priority. Indeed, this task doesn't appear on many students’ radar screens until their final semester.
How important is it for college students to have a resume? "Vital!" says Lorie Lebert, CEO of career management firm Resumes for Results and contributor to numerous resume books, including Best Resumes for College Students and New Grads. "Not only should students have a traditional hard-copy resume — they should have one developed in ASCII (text) format for applying online.”
Armed with a well-constructed resume, you will be prepared for opportunities that may arise throughout your college career — from seasonal, part-time and temporary employment to assistantships, internships, and fellowships. You'll also be ready to update your resume when you graduate.
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So where do you start? Here are five tips for writing that all-important first resume.
Start with a Qualifications Summary
Sue Campbell, a professional resume writer and president of 1st-Writer.com, says that a summary of your top qualifications is often more effective than an objective statement. This is particularly true if your career goal is undefined.
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Says Robyn Feldberg, a certified career management coach and owner of Abundant Success Career Services, "I don't recommend writing a vague objective, because it will typically focus on what the job seeker wants, which is usually of no consequence to the person making the hiring decision. Instead of an objective, I recommend that students format a profile section that clearly gives the reader a picture of the value they offer a potential employer.” Keep your summary brief — a few hard-hitting sentences are perfect.
Give Education Top Billing on Your Resume
Typically, education is placed at the bottom of a resume, but students are often better served by moving their education toward the top, the experts agree.
"Without experience in the target field, education is often the most valuable information a student has to offer," explains Campbell. "The education section can move down in priority as the job seeker gains experience.”
According to Feldberg, "when formatting education, include the name of the college or university, its city and state, anticipated graduation date, extracurricular activities and courses related to your job target.” If your GPA is 3.0 or higher, include that too, experts advise.
Be Strategic in Describing Unrelated Jobs
Many students have part-time, seasonal or temporary work experience that is unrelated to future career goals. You don't want to pack your document with irrelevant details, says Feldberg. On the other hand, prospective employers value candidates who demonstrate dependability and a strong work ethic, even if the experience is in a different industry.
Pull out the most important aspects of your work experience, Lebert advises. "Go into detail about projects you were involved in that show leadership, drive and determination," she says. Campbell suggests students extract the skills and achievements that are most relevant to employers' needs and leave out details that don't add value.
Think Like an Employer -- and Like a Job Seeker
If you're applying to jobs or internships, "look at your experience through two pairs of eyes: the potential employer's and your own," says Campbell.
Study job ads or internship announcements that interest you. "For example, if an ad states that communication skills are important, think about times when your communication skills came into play," Campbell says. "If you worked in any customer service-related position, you definitely used communication skills." You can emphasize these skills on your resume.
"Next, look at your experience through your own eyes," says Campbell. "What work did you enjoy? While these skills and experiences may not be directly relevant to the positions you're targeting, they're good indicators of areas where you're likely to excel in the future."
Pick the Right Resume Length
"For most college students, a one-page resume is plenty," says Feldberg. But she adds that this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, particularly for students who have established a track record within their career path through internships or work experience. For these students, "a one-page resume would sell them short," she says, and it's OK to go to two pages.
This article originally appeared on Monster.com.