In a perfect world, at the start of your working life, you’d be handed a crisp, well-written resume to help you get that first “real” job. And, as you toil away, it would absorb and document your experiences and accomplishments so that they’d be there, ready, waiting, and written for your next move.
Then, when you’re ready to move up the ladder a bit, your resume would know just how to communicate the skills gained and results that a professional needs to show they can lead and take on more responsibility. It would document new challenges, accolades, big projects, so that when you’re up for that big step into the corner office, all you’d need to do is run it through spell check.
Alas, life will probably not get that easy—at least until the 2020s. For now, we all have to be prepared to create a resume (or help a professional create one for us) that is tailored to whatever career stage we’re in at the moment. And while some “rules” will remain standard (Make sure it’s accurate! Sell yourself!), there are choices in other areas that can and should change as you progress. Over these next four posts, we’re going to take a look at each season and the strategies you should be using to make the most out of what you’ve got to offer.
We start with Spring, when everything is new and young professionals are just beginning to bloom. Graduating from college and ready to take on the world, it’s the first time for many that a real resume is needed.
The work world has changed quite a bit since the days when a simple recitation of courses taken and odd jobs held was enough to snag that first position. These days, employers expect even the freshest candidates to be able to communicate not just what they want from a job, but more importantly, what they have to offer. Separating yourself from your peers is as essential now as it will be later, especially when you’re competing for the high-potential opportunities.
So what should you consider as you begin to draft this first resume? There are four main sections to develop:
Sum Yourself up
Despite your status as a career neophyte, the introduction still holds major value. The days of the Objective are gone and a strong, well-written summary is a must.
A title at the top shows your focus. You can include terms to explain that you are starting out (Entry-level Sales Representative, Marketing Assistant, Junior Accountant). Then, move into your value proposition.
“But I don’t have much to offer yet!” you exclaim. My response? Of course you do – you have plenty and in the course of 4 or 5 lines, you’re going to show just that. You’ll mention that you’ve earned a degree, and point out your area of focus. You’ll note the areas of study that qualify you for the target position, as well as your experience working, where you learned skills that apply nearly everywhere like customer service and leadership.
A section for Core Competencies (or Areas of Expertise) comes next. Keywords that align with your target go here – Sports Marketing, Financial Analysis, Team Management—stick to hard skills, and unless you’re an IT pro, you can put your computer skills here, too.
Education – Eventually, your schooling will move behind your experience. But right now it’s a major selling point, so make it count. In addition to your official degree, include your GPA if it was high (generally 3.5 or higher). List your major classes, and perhaps a project from one that show some background in your target.
If you studied abroad, that’s a great way to show your interest in more global pursuits. Mention clubs that you participated in – if you were a leader in any, don’t forget to say so (if you held a prominent position or completed an internship, you may want include those under the next section).
Experience – Many new grads fret about their lack of “real” experience, especially if they’ve held only held jobs at the local Y or in their dad’s office. But it’s the rare person who starts out with a great deal more than that. Having a couple of real work examples, no matter where, let’s hirers see that you have been in a professional environment and understand how they operate. To optimize these roles, think about a time when you assisted with project or event, or were commended for your performance. If parents told your boss what a talented swim instructor you were, say so!
Internships that gave you the opportunity to work in your area of focus can be included here, too. If you spent two summers as a clerk in a law office, or at a top ad agency, hirers will know that you’re familiar with what’s required and may be more ready than most to jump right in. Same goes for serving as president of your sorority or editor of the school newspaper. You may not have been paid but you DID manage budgets, coordinate events, or oversee a team—all strong skills to bring to your first job.
Extras – As you move on, details about extracurricular activities will become less important. At this stage, through, volunteering—whether for a charitable organization or on a political campaign—can be used as more examples of your engagement. Highlight any special roles you held, as well as accomplishments, such as raising money.
The key to a strong entry-level resume is making the most of what you have to offer by communicating all of the knowledge you’ve picked up, whether in class, on the job, or through activities. Show hirers that you’re not just one of many with a diploma. Illustrate that you’re one of a select few with the talent and drive to make the very most of your first opportunity.
To getting the jobs of our dreams – cheers!
The Resume Girl