Ok, there. It’s out in the open. For those of you who haven’t sat down to write a résumé, the task can seem daunting. What are the best extracurricular activities to include? What if I haven’t taken on relevant tasks that can help me stand out? Don’t worry! You’re probably more prepared than you think, it’s just finding the right way to market yourself that might take a little more brain power. Aside from finding an online template or two, these helpful hints on putting together a résumé are designed to point you in the right direction.
1) Stay Organized: It may seem like it goes without saying, but better safe than sorry. The basic rules to follow are to have your résumé fit onto a single sheet of paper, and to have your contact information and education information listed on the top of the page. When it comes time to list your skills, always start with your most recent activity at the top, and work your way down the page in chronological order. If you happen to have your résumé divided into separate sections, remember to list activities in chronological order within the individual sections.
2) Numbers, Numbers, Numbers: This one was shared with me by a good friend and talented business student who helped me write my first résumé. It boils down to being specific with your description of past experience. It’s nice to see that you worked for your college newspaper, but it looks even better to employers to see that you wrote 3 articles a week for a daily publication with 40,000 daily online readership. If you don’t know concrete numbers offhand, don’t be afraid to ask someone who does. It will only help you in the long run.
3) Be relevant, but concise: A little is all it takes when it comes to describing your experience at a past position. If you think you’ve got too much to say and not enough room, think about things you did that could be most relevant to the job you’re applying for and cater to their needs. Try not to exceed 3 bullet points for each position you’ve held. It’s great to see you’ve got the right kind of experience, but it’s even better to leave something for them to ask during the interview!
4) Look to apply administrative skills: Think back to old jobs you’ve held that you now think are irrelevant. If you think hard enough I bet you can find a way to make that job at a local pub look like a learning experience where you were able to hone your public relation skills, manage money, and assist managers. Of course you won’t feel like having a waitressing job on your resume forever, but if you’re trying to snag that first bit of experience in your field, there’s nothing wrong with including it for the time being. Employers understand that students won’t have a full professional resume, but if you can show you’ve learned something relevant from other jobs then you’re on the right track.
5) It’s all in the verbs: Picture this: Sally babysat for two kids on a regular basis during her junior year of high school. Cool, Sally. Next. Jane was responsible for the daily routines and care of two children every weekend during her senior year of high school. During this time she practiced time management to balance her daily life and weekend job, as well as researched the latest child care techniques to stay current on her chosen field. Oh, hey Jane. Here’s your offer letter. It may sound tedious, but if you make your résumé worth reading by sounding better, it could make the difference between getting that call back for an interview and never hearing from them again.
6) Think outside the box: Don’t have as much relevant experience as you’d hoped? Fear not, friends. Let me introduce you to the beauty of the “Skills” section. By adding a skills section to your resume, you can find ways to incorporate other relevant information that you may not have learned within a professional setting. For instance, say you took a photo class and now you’re a Photoshop expert. That’s great news to employers! List this quality under the skills section, add a couple of bullets about specific projects you’ve worked on, and you’re ready to go!
7) Career Services When in doubt, ask for help! Schools have career service centers with staffs who are there to help you edit your résumé and cover letter, as well as to help you hone your interviewing skills. If you’ve finished a first draft, it’s worth your time to set up an appointment with an advisor to edit it for you. A second set of eyes on such an important piece of paper can work wonders!