Assessing your resume – what do you need?

Taking time to plan your resume will help ensure great results!
Taking time to plan your resume will help ensure great results!

At some time or another, nearly everyone is going to need a resume—whether you’ve been in your job for years and years, have recently started a new position, or are out of work, having a strong resume is a must. As you consider the one you’ve got, ask yourself a few key questions:

Is it up to date?

Does the formatting feel fresh, or does it look eerily similar to the ones you remember from a decade ago?

Does it still reflect the path you’re pursuing, or is it a bit outdated?

Do you have the keywords needed to optimize it for the all-seeing applicant tracking system?

There’s a lot to think about, especially if you have never taken the time to pull together your work history on paper. But even if you ultimately decide that you need a professional, it’s important that you can provide them with the details needed to make the most of your experience.

So let’s take a look at what you need, where to find it, and what to do with it.

 

First things first – create a timeline

The most straightforward part of your resume is likely your employment history. So to start, list your jobs and their dates (no months needed for most, unless, perhaps, you work on a strict project basis with multiple clients or jobs per year). When you’ve got them all, take notice of short-term or random jobs that really don’t add much to your credentials. If they were long ago or short enough, leaving them out might be an option. Or, if they’d present a gap but there isn’t much to say, you might consider just mentioning them without detail.

 

Put together a paper-based “highlight reel”

Actors use the highlight reel to show off their best work—you’ll do the same, but instead of film roles, you’ll present accomplishments from each job. So for each position, try to think of 3-4 examples that show you at your best. If you have trouble, old reviews (make sure you keep those!) can help remind you of accomplishments that stood out. Awards are great, so are promotions—the things that will give a prospective employer an idea of what you might do for them.

 

School Stuff

For recent college grads, or folks with a new degree that represents a change in direction, get out your transcripts; list classes from your major, particularly advanced ones. If you wrote a paper that got attention, mention that—it can illustrate knowledge that you may not have gotten on the job yet, but will need for your target role. And don’t forget your internship! They can be a great way to show that you know the environment into which you’ll be heading.

 

Introducing …You!

Whether you’ve got 20 years of experience in the field or are just starting out, the opening summary sets the tone for the resume. Even if you have just earned your degree, stay away from stating your objective and determine your 3-5 best qualifications for the job. What makes you a strong fit? Consider adjectives that describe your approach and enthusiasm, and look over job postings so that you can be sure to incorporate the qualities employers want. Start putting together the keywords that are important to your industry and target job—creating a word cloud from job descriptions is one way to make sure you’ve got the best ones.

Once you’ve got your job outline, examples of accomplishments, education and skills, and keywords, you’re ready to start building. Or, if you’re hiring someone to write your resume, you’ve got the ingredients they’ll need to create one that is clear, strategic, and impactful. There are plenty of formats and styles to choose from, I suggest going online and checking out samples. See what others in your field are using, and find one that is both visually appealing and easy to follow.

Don’t forget to proofread! Few things turn of an employer faster than typos, errors, or missing information. Have someone else read your resume before you send it to any employers.

 

Wrapping up …

Chances are that wherever you decide to apply, you’ll be competing against some talented professionals. By taking the time to plan your resume, you’re likely to be one step ahead of them in capturing the attention of employers. It’s energy well spent, and the work you put in will be helpful when it’s interview time and you need to talk about yourself—that’s much easier with everything fresh in your mind. When it comes to your resume, a little preparation goes a long way!

 

 

To getting the job of your dreams – Cheers!

 

Paula

The Resume Girl

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Can you put a price on your career?

A strong resume is critical – but just how much should it cost you?

There are two things clients want to know when they first get in touch with me about writing their resume. First, they’re interested in my background, and specifically, my experience with people in their field or industry. Second – and perhaps even more urgently – they want to know what’s it’s going to cost.

Because there is such a wide range of price points, I think some insights on what goes into the resume writing process may clear up misconceptions, while bringing awareness to when you might be paying (a lot) more than necessary.

Let’s take a look at some common questions I get about pricing:

“What are the steps involved? Why am I paying so much for one or two pages of information, especially when I’ve provided the details?”

If all that was done was taking an old resume and doing a bit of rewriting, you’re right – you shouldn’t pay a whole lot for it. A reputable writer, however, will be doing much more than that. From a conversation about your goals and questions about your accomplishments to edits and revisions that maximize impact, a lot is going to happen from the time you contact a writer to when you get the final version. I often have phone calls with my clients and I always work with them until they are happy with the results. So the price you are paying is for the entire engagement and all the time that goes into it, not just the resume document.

Why should I pay hundreds of dollars when I see places online where I can get a resume for $50 – or less?!?

If your main objective is to get the cheapest resume available, you can find someone to do it. The trade off is in the quality of the document you get back and the service you receive. You are likely to get a boilerplate resume that can be found anywhere online. It probably won’t have essentials such as targeted keywords and you can be fairly certain that there won’t be much opportunity to speak to your writer or make many changes.

Quite frankly, if you only want to pay a very small amount of money, I think you’re better off getting a book from the library or finding tips online and writing it yourself.

Why do some resume services cost SO much?

You’re right. Just as you can pay next to nothing, you can also spend an awful lot. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Many companies charge much higher fees and focus on executive-level clients, folks used to spending quite a bit on most things they purchase. Investing more in something makes them feel (not always accurately) like they are getting “more” for those extra dollars. Sometimes in fact, they DO get more – their packages might include a mock interview or job-hunting support. Other times, it’s more of a psychological thing, as opposed to real value.
  • A bigger company often employs contract writers and possibly editors. Their pricing will reflect those costs, as well as a higher margin for themselves. In addition to my work with personal clients, I also create resumes for those companies – but while it’s the same me doing the job, the price a client pays is far more than I’d charge if they were paying me directly (and I get a relatively small portion of that). That isn’t a knock on the big guys out there – just a reality of the world. We all know that there are stores that charge more for the same product. It’s no different for a resume.
So how do I know what to pay?

A bit of research can help you determine your price point, as well as what exactly you’re getting. Look on the company’s website – do they offer everything you need? Are there limits to what you can expect? What are the opportunities you’ll have to work directly with your writer? Then consider your budget. If you’re at the early stages of your career or have a fairly straightforward career, do you need to spend $500 or more for that resume? My instincts say no, but it’s a judgment jobseekers need to make for themselves.

One thing that I’ve found as people pay more is that they often expect something “magical” from their resume, some intangible element that has never been seen before or will automatically get them through the screening process. Unfortunately, they can face disappointment when their completed resume doesn’t appear completely different from every resume that’s been created before. Having written tens of thousands of resumes, I can assure you that 99% of resumes follow a fairly similar structure and look. The difference is in the details that help you stand out.

The best way to know what you’re paying for is to take a look at (or ask for) samples. See what’s the company and its writers have created before – chances are, yours will look something like one of them. If nothing looks great, it may be a sign that you need to keep searching for the right writer.

My personal focus is on providing clients with a strong, focused resume that highlights strengths and accomplishments – and doing so at a reasonable price that takes into account the time and energy I spend on creating, editing, and polishing it, as well as the conversations that take place throughout each client engagement.

In the end, you want to feel good about the money you spend, both in terms of your budget and in what you expect from your writer—this way you can feel confident that you are getting what you pay for.

One thing is invariably true – when you’ve landed that target position, odds are that you’ll be happy you made the investment.

To getting the job of your dream – cheers!

Paula

The Resume Girl

A Resume for All Seasons, Part 4: Winter

It may get a little cold in Winter, but you can take steps to make sure your resume is ready for any weather.
It may get a little cold in Winter, but you can take steps to make sure your resume is ready for any weather.

Today we’re taking a look at the challenges faced by professionals in what I’ve decided to call the winter season – folks who are perhaps in a quieter time of their career, but who nonetheless need a strong resume, or those facing specific challenges.  And just like you need to warm up your car on a cold snowy day, having a resume that’s robust and ready to go is essential.

Our previous looks at resumes covered the early stages of one’s career (Spring), progression to management (Summer), and advancement into senior-level roles (Autumn). As we move to the shortest season, we’ll cover a coople of distinct situations that call for a bit of extra thought and strategy:

– Resumes for older folks who for various reasons are still/back in the workforce.

– Resumes for those re-entering the job market after an extensive absence.

So let’s get started!

The Older the Better

Ideally, people with many years of experience under their belt would be seen as invaluable resources and companies would be falling over themselves to hire them. In the real word, “seniors” are too often seen a a liability, whether because of perceived insurance costs or uncertainty about their levels of energy and motivation. Ageism is alive and well, though it often flies under the radar–so what can you do to make sure that it’s your career getting the attention, and not the year you were born?

First, check out the resumes that are out there and make any needed changes to update your style and format. Nothing says “I haven’t done this in awhile” more than a resume that looks like it came from a typewriter.

Get a “modern” email address. Depending on your background and interests, you may not have chosen the most professional one at the start. But while “grandmaof4@hotmail.com” works fine with friends and family, it’s not likely to win points with an employer. Ditch anything that’s cutesy or unnecessarily revealing. YourName@gmail is a good option – add a middle initial or number if it’s already been taken.

Provide a Title and strong summary to start things off and let employers know who you are. Don’t highlight your 40 years of work in your introduction (instead of “Marketer with 35 years of experience” you might say “Marketer with a history of success”), just go over your strongest selling points and be as relevant as you can to the current environment in your field.

Include a keywords section (often called “Core Competencies” or “Areas of Expertise” to showcase skills relevant to target jobs. Try and cover the same ones you see in job ads, and don’t forget to include computer programs that you know. Many companies put resumes through systems that search for keywords, so having them in there is essential.

Your Professional History section will follow the same rules that are true for all resumes–provide job descriptions for each role, with bulleted accomplishments to highlight your contributions and results. If it’s been a bit of time since your last position, you may want to include a note about any volunteer or part-time roles you’ve held. But how far back to go? Some “experts” recommend never going more than 10-15 years or so. I don’t believe there is any magic number, but you do want to avoid overload. Unless you did something very interesting (like were a shuttle astronaut or head of state), companies are probably not interested in the jobs you held 25 or more years ago.

Know the lingo–whatever your occupation or industry, make sure that you use appropriate language and terms. No need to talk about systems you know that are no longer in use. If it means taking a computer class to get up to speed, consider it an investment.

When it comes to Education, do include your degree – no need to mention a year but if it’s recent (I’ve seen retirees with newly earned ones), do point that out. And be sure to include any classes you’ve taken in the last 5-10 years, too, if they relate to the job you want. Position yourself as someone who’s in the know and you are much more likely to get a call back.

Back in the Saddle

There are lots of reasons folks drop out of the workforce, and just as many for dropping back in. Layoffs can turn to extended unemployment, particularly in shrinking industries and professions. Perhaps your absence was due to a serious injury or illness (yours or someone you love), or you relocated with a spouse and your old career doesn’t fit well in the new area (think SCUBA instructor moves to Iowa). Job gaps aren’t always negative–maybe you left to raise children, or took a sabbatical.

Whatever the reason, you’ve got a stretch of time you need to account for on your resume. Doing so in a clear, straightforward way is the key to overcoming the stigma (sometimes perceived, sometimes real) of joblessness in its various forms. This is another area where resume writers often clash. I’ve spoken with clients who were warned against any indication that they have a child or an elderly parent. Or, heaven forbid, were sick themselves.

My stance? Above all, your resume needs to be clear and truthful at all times. No, that doesn’t mean sharing every detail of your illness or domestic situation. What it does mean is that you provide a reason that you can speak to in an interview with confidence.

Let’s go back through our resume. You’ve got your title, which aligns with your background, followed by a strong summary paragraph describing your key assets. You’ve got keywords to show relevant skills. All completed as you would at any other time on your career. So now, we come to the Experience section. Here is where you must put on your thinking cap. How to explain this 3 (or 5, or 9) years away fro paid work? What can be done to keep hirers from wincing at the gap before turning to the next candidate?

First, take a look to see if you’ve actually been completely non-working. Did you leave your job as an accountant to stay home with two kids, but take up responsibility as the treasurer of a local non-profit? Have you been bookkeeper for your religious home? If you’re an event planner, did you take over running the PTO and coordinating big fundraisers? If so, judos to you! You’ve stayed active and involved and chances are, hirers will be more likely to overlook the fact that you haven’t drawn a salary for awhile.

Instead of a section heading like “Professional History”, which implies being paid to some, you can simply use “Experience” or “Work History. Beyond that, use the same strategies as you will for the rest of your career. Strong, sharp description of activities combined with examples that emphasize your contributions show that you are engaged and can deliver results,

I used this strategy myself not long ago; an IT Director was looking to re-enter the job market after a 7 year absence. A pretty big gap. But as it turns out, pretty much the entire time she had served as a math tutor. We just started with that, then went into the last paid job, followed by multiple volunteer roles where she had continued to use her technical expertise. Long story short, she found a job, even more quickly than I’d expected.

Maybe you didn’t work at all, but you did continue your education, taking online classes or attending industry seminars and conferences. Be sure to indicate that. In many case, I actually start the Work section with a line that reads as follows: “Since 2008, time spent at home with young children, while earning bachelor’s degree through part-time program.” If you were laid off, you might say. “Following layoff, began volunteering 3 mornings a week providing support to young mothers; currently enrolled in courses to prepare for XYZ certification.” Again, you’re showing activity as well as an understanding of the requirements of your given field.

Once you’ve provided the explanation for what’s going on now, you can return to normal resume protocols to fill out your professional life. Job descriptions, accomplishments, and any other information that pertains to the target role.

A strong cover letter can give you a nice platform to both explain your absence and impress upon employers just how interested you are. Keep the reason simple – “I spent 9 months caring for my elderly mother”, who is now in long term care” – and focus on all that you will bring to the job.

No doubt there are challenges in creating a resume when you’ve been “outside the zone,” professional speaking. But with a little attention to detail, plus a healthy dose of enthusiasm and energy, you’re sure to find some opportunities to get you back in.

To getting the jobs of our dreams – cheers!

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

                                                                – Thomas A. Edison

A Resume for All Seasons, Part 3: Autumn

Just as fall is a time for bold colors and harvests, careers in this stage are often at their most vibrant point.
Just as fall is a time for bold colors and harvests, careers in this stage are often at their most vibrant. It’s time to reap the rewards of your hard work!

Having looked at the requirements of a resume for new jobseekers In the first post of this series, as well as the changes needed to make the leap into more demanding, higher-level positions in the second, we turn our attention to the next chapter. For many, it is the culmination of years of hard work, when the fruit has ripened and the fields that have been lovingly planted are ready for harvesting. We’ve proven our worth and earned our place at the table; with some good fortune we’ve climbed the ladder of our chosen filed, gained experience and along with it, a certain wisdom that only comes from time itself.

But though we may now have a solid reputation and a network of people to vouch for us, our resume is still vital as a calling card and documentation of success. In fact, creating a strong, dynamic resume is often a catalyst – professionals, perhaps comfortable after years of solid work, are reminded of just how much they achieved and how much value they have to offer. Putting it all together is not always easy – how to encapsulate many years into a concise yet complete resume without losing anything vital? What needs to stay? What can probably go? How do we communicate our background without overwhelming the reader?

A senior-level or “executive” resume often doesn’t look all that different on the surface. Formatting and style guidelines are pretty much the same. Depending on industry and exact role, they may be a bit more conservative; but they should still contain elements, whether in color or other graphics, to ensure they stand out. More than ever before they should be polished and reflect the professional “stature” of the candidate.

Let’s take a look at some key areas and how they will play out on “paper”:

Starting Off Strong

A title at this stage is an immediate declaration. If you are saying, “I am a CEO. CFO”, or other top position, the information that follows must live up to it. These are not jobs for shrinking violets and come with specific expectations. And even if you’re not looking to join the executive suite, chances are you’re still seeking an opportunity that is open to the more experienced and tested among us.

Your summary may be a bit longer than most–it needs to focus on the areas that distinguish you as a leader. Often this means strategy over tactics. You are no longer the one implementing plans, you are setting the larger direction for an organization. Make sure that the opening details sell those capabilities. If you’ve orchestrated a financial turnaround, say so. Same with “big-ticket” details like mergers and acquisitions, or overseeing creation of a whole new business.

Some at this level do away with specific sections for keywords, but as long as there is available real estate, clueing hirers and recruiters to particular areas of expertise (like the above-mentioned M&A)  can help distinguish you from the rest.

But What do You DO All Day?

One of the issues I’ve run into with senior-level clients is that they think people “just know” what they do and there’s little description needed. But rather than assume that, I encourage them to really think about their days and how they are moving an organization forward. Strategy is often big here. Explaining the process–who you’re working with and how decisions are being made–helps to illustrate your pivotal role and authority.

Likewise, bullet points will tend to lean toward the “big picture” side. Overall sales or company growth, large-scale transitions, and standing among competition can almost always be linked back to those high-level decisions, and you can take credit for that. Same with overcoming major challenges or roadblocks. While experiences like the financial crisis are not fun, they can be a tremendous opportunity for an executive to show fortitude and the ability to overcoming even the harshest environments. So tell those war stories and don’t leave out the positive ending!

Length often becomes an issue for Autumn professionals. There is a lot of ground to cover and there may be aa tendency to try and get it ALL on the page, which in most cases is an urge to resist. Folks are still most interested in what you’ve done over the last 15-20 years or so, and if you go beyond that, you risk losing their interest. One advantage executives have is that no one is concerned about your starter jobs or needs to see a lot about your mid-level career. So give full attention to the top management roles and scale back on the early information. Feel free to eliminate un-related older work completely, if it doesn’t speak to your value proposition now.

Education Still Matters

Though your degrees no longer define you, don’t lose them altogether.  List them in “backwards” time order (without dates), and include any certifications or licenses that are key in your industry.

Where Do You Belong?

Although memberships and volunteer roles can feel superfluous, professionals at this level may have significant positions with groups that are worth singling out. Playing a key role in a prominent nonprofit or taking on philanthropic endeavors is a great way to show additional leadership as well as a commitment to society and the larger world. Similarly, serving a a trustee or board member shows that your thoughts and ideas are relied upon and valued.

Many top positions don’t get filled through ordinary channels. People are often recommended or scouted, and there may be a trail of experiences and accomplishments to follow. At some point, however, you’ll likely sit face-to-face with someone to discuss your background. No matter how times change, having a sharp resume that puts all that information in one place will always be an asset.

To getting the jobs of our dreams – cheers!

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

A Resume for All Seasons: Part 2 – Summer

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Updating your resume to reflect more experience and greater responsibility is the first step to taking your career to soaring heights!

Welcome to the second of four posts on how to take your resume through the various stages of your career. Earlier this week, we took a look at Spring, the season for new grads just starting out (you can access the post here). Today, my focus is on what you need to think about once you’ve left the starting gate and are on your way down the racetrack. It’s a time for many folks to start getting serious about where they’re headed and think about how they want to position themselves, whether to get more responsibility or to raise their salary. Competition for these jobs can be fierce and just as you must be ready to take your skills to a new level, your resume’s got to be prepared to show employers that you have what it takes to make the leap.

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Who doesn’t love summer? Everything is in full bloom, the air is warm, and energy is running high. Summer is a time for adventure, for exploring what’s out there.

When it comes to careers, I think of summer as a time of ripening. Just as fruits on a tree gain substance and flavor, professionals with work experience under their belt gain a sense of confidence from having completed big projects or handling tough challenges. This is the time when many careers are in full motion, when moving up the ladder becomes a more regular occurrence. It’s also a good time to reassess your resume and whether it’s still telling your story in the best way possible. So let’s come back and see where changes are needed.

In the Beginning

We start, as always, with that all-important top section. Your focus is likely clearer now, so start off with a title that both suits what you’ve done to date and where you want to go. Even if you haven’t held the exact job, as long as it within a few rungs on the career ladder, you’ll be fine. (For tips on making the transition to management, check out this article from The Guardian.)

The summary is key at this stage. You’ve been building your skills and credibility, it’s time to show off the results. Think about the three or four areas that are key to your target position and focus your summary there. Are budgets a big part of the job? Make you sure you say that you’ve managed them. Same with leading teams, developing plans – whatever is expected at the next level, show that you’ve got it.

Your “Areas of Expertise” section may need shaking up, too. The keywords should get more precise and area-specific. It’s important to know the buzzwords of your industry so that you can include those — they will be important to getting you past those Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that often scan your resume before any human eye does.

You may have done this already, but make sure your Education is moved back towards the end of the resume. While it was a big selling point right out of school, by now you’ve got experience, and that is what hirers want to see.

What Have You Been Up To?

Now that you’ve been working in jobs that are more aligned with your career goals, strong descriptions and bulleted achievements are critical. Go over your functions, covering the main angles of your roles while keeping language precise and crisp. Use numbers to highlight people managed, budget sizes, clients served. Be sure to include if you’re reporting directly with top management or if you sit on any committees or internal groups. That kind of involvement shows authority and supports your interest in a higher-level role.

Your contributions and impact are now essential to demonstrate. Every bullet point that you provide (I recommend 2-3 for every 5 years in a job) should illustrate the value that you bring and the accomplishments that make you stand out. Use metrics whenever possible (“Saved $1.7M” speaks volumes more than “Generated savings”) and note your results, whether it was bringing in new business, boosting productivity, or reducing turnover. If the project you managed was implementing a system that provided new capabilities, say that. Make it clear that what you did was important, and why.

Awards make great bullet points, as does less formal recognition from higher ups. Just be sure to give explanations so that the achievements are clear. Also, keep in mind that while numbers are great, less concrete contributions, like developing relationships and increasing brand awareness, are important, too. A strong mix of “hard” and “soft” highlights show that you’ve got all the bases covered.

How much is TOO much?

Now is a good time to go over your resume real estate. If you need a second page to cover a few jobs, that’s fine—but you can also begin to eliminate those early ones that simply showed you had experience. Your stint as a camp counselor can go, as can the work you did while in school.

Keep in mind how you want to be seen – as an experienced professional in your field. If a job doesn’t support that and was quite a while ago, it can probably be deleted.

We’ve discussed the fact that your Education has slipped back down behind your paid jobs. You can also remove the details of your classes, your internship, and the clubs and activities that were so important to your entry-level resume. In fact, too much emphasis on college activities after a certain point can make you seem like you are a bit stuck in the past.

That said, you should absolutely list (and join, if you haven’t yet) professional associations in your field. You can also include volunteer work, especially if it’s related to your job focus.

With a bit of attention and effort, you can turn that “beginner’s” resume into an effective presentation of the skills, experiences, and professional achievements that companies are seeking from higher-level employees. You’ll secure that next great job and be well on your way to even greater success.

To getting the jobs of our dreams – cheers!

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

A Resume for All Seasons: Part 1 – Spring

Getting your resume prepared is one of the key first steps to a blossoming career
Getting your resume prepared is one of the key first steps to a blossoming career

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.

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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!

Paula

The Resume Girl