One of the most difficult and daunting tasks after graduating from college is creating your first post-college resume. You may not have the job experience you’d like or, perhaps, you just aren't sure how to get across your experiences all together.
Experts agree that most students underestimate how much experience they actually have and often don’t include many valuable aspects on their post-college resumes. Don’t let this become you! It’s always best to put everything applicable to your experiences on your resume, no matter how big or small the experience seems.
Your final resume should end at a one-page document, with a brief job goal that gives the person reviewing your resume an idea of your previous experience by assessing your expertise.
The following are guidelines to consider when creating a resume fresh out of college, one of the most inquired about tasks by college grads today:
1. List a career objective.
Do this only if you’re sure of what you want to do or if you’re applying to a specific job that you can tailor the objective to (in which case, you should).
If you are unsure about your career goals, don’t put an objective. It’s likely you will hinder yourself more than help if you put placeholder text that’s vague and lacks targeting like, “Seeking a promising career within a progressive company.”
2. List the details of your education.
This includes your school and the year you obtained your degree. Make sure to include any honors, if possible, as well as your grade point average if it’s high.
3. List relevant coursework (outside of your specified major).
If you took courses specifically tailored to your career that didn't necessarily fit into your major’s curriculum, your potential employer will likely be interested in seeing your experiences. You can list such courses under the education section of your resume.
For example, if you majored in Journalism but want to specifically write about nutrition, you could add a line to the education section of your resume that states, “Coursework included nutritional development, public health and wellness and the relation between society and food.”
4. Reevaluate all of your job experiences.
While you may consider a prior job to be mundane, low-level or irrelevant, that may not necessarily be the case.
Think about what you’ve done from a broader perspective: did you manage anyone? Interact with customers or clients? Were you responsible for your own small business, such as babysitting or lawn-care? All of these are valuable skills that should not be left off your resume since employers would find candidates with such skills highly employable.
5. Determine how your extracurriculars might relate to your career.
Being active in clubs, sports or other activities can demonstrate your dedication and responsibility. Don’t count out activities just because they weren't performed within a traditional job or internship setting.
For example, if you’re going into fundraising for the nonprofit sector, and you were the philanthropy chair of your sorority, organizing events and fundraisers, this is valuable experience to your employer.
Make sure you list your current job as a full-time student and under, with bullet points, you can detail any positions or details that may be of value to a potential employer.
6. Determine whether your coursework could be qualified as job experience.
Many college students handle coursework that is demanding enough to equate to a full-time position. The experiences that are relevant to your career goals can be listed as job experience.
Again, make sure to list your current job as a full-time student and under, with bullet points, you can detail any coursework or studies completed that are relevant to your objective.
For example, assume you’re a journalism major and one of your courses required articles to be researched, written and then sent out to potential publications. If any of your coursework was published, it would benefit you to list under the course to list the articles you had published and where as a result of taking the course.
This ultimately translates into real-world experience and is just as valuable to an employer as any other work experience you may have.
7. Pay attention to verbiage and tense.
When writing a resume, it’s always best to use active verbs and language. Rather than “worked on,” used collaborate.
Use past tense unless you’re currently involved in a project. If you’re currently working on a project, use present tense but try to avoid using verbs ending in “ing” since they tend to be passive.
8. Use detailed descriptions and numbers.
This can easily help you translate a job you find to be a placeholder into impressive resume-worthy experience.
For example, if you worked a retail job in the fall, it may not sound that impressive to you. However, if you taken into consideration that your store was one of the highest grossing within the company, had $45,000 in sales daily and you were assisting 10,000 customers daily – that sounds much more remarkable.
Consider how your detailed job description may have been different from your colleagues. Were you the go-to employee for customer service issues because you handle conflict well? Did you train new hires because you work well with others?
All of these are key aspects to taking previous job experience from ordinary to extraordinary – without lying or exaggeration, just elaboration on details and numbers.
9. Try a “brain dump” exercise.
Talk over all work, schooling and experiences with someone, including the pros and cons of each experience and what you found memorable. Be sure to include as many details as possible in the conversation.
The goal is to talk through everything that could possibly be listed on your resume – even experiences that you may not have considered. Think about your courses, extra-curricular activities, volunteer work and participation in sports.
This will help you sort through what is valuable to include on your resume and what’s worth leaving off the page.
In addition, listing what you found enjoyable about each experience will likely help shape your career objective, since it can help you see what types of experiences you tend to enjoy and what conditions you thrive under.
10. Consider alternative resume formats.
There is no correct format for a resume, though there is a standard. The standard layout is objective, education, experience and skills.
However, an individual must determine which resume format works best with their content.
With added experience and as your needs, goals or opportunities change and develop, your resume will change. Edit it to reflect those changes as often as possible so that you’re always submitting an updated version of yourself to your potential employer.
The ultimate goal is to give the potential employer a picture of who you are as an employee, not a person, so only job-relevant information is necessary.
In the end, the finest resumes are clear and concise with details, descriptions and relevant information. Utilize the aforementioned tips to help build the strongest resume version of you-as-an-employee possible.
Do you have any helpful resume writing tips?