Now is the time of the year when graduates are celebrating the end of their studies and eagerly looking to putting their hard-earned knowledge to work. Finding job opportunities is infinitely easier today than in the past: with a myriad of job boards and online recruiting sites available 24/7, opportunities abound.
The question is: how do you turn an opportunity into a job offer?
The first step is a winning resume. It sounds simple, but it can be the biggest problem most first-time job seekers face: how do you market yourself when you have limited — or no — work experience? Here are some tips to make yourself marketable when you’re just starting out:
First off: don’t reinvent the wheel. There are lots of resume templates out there. Find one that works for you, and polish it to perfection.
Now, let’s build the document. The best resumes are structured in five parts. Let’s go into these in more detail:
- Opening Statement
Think of this as a personal branding statement. It needs to be crisp, no longer than a few sentences and it should speak to what’s unique about you. It’s a way to interest recruiters in the rest of the resume. For a recent college graduate, a broad example might read, “Top-tier graduate and accomplished campus leader with a proven track record of professionalism and results with both corporate internships and campus leadership activities. Multilingual, well traveled, versatile, and academically accomplished individual seeking to make a positive impact.”
- Professional Qualifications
Having your qualifications at the top of your resume is key; they’re probably your most important selling points. List any internships you held during school, the specifics about your responsibilities, and then list any accomplishments in those positions. People hire individuals who make a measurable impact. Now is the time to shout out any accomplishments you may have had. Don’t dismiss any work experience as irrelevant or too low level. Everything from childcare duties to customer service and volunteer work shows you’re more than just great grades.
- Degree Qualification
Below any internships or jobs held that sell your qualifications for the positions you’re seeking, list your school, your degree(s), and the date and year of your graduation. Any commendations or awards you may have earned along the way also go in this section.
- Applicable Skills
There are some skills regardless of the position that feature high on an employers list. These include problem-solving, teamwork, effective communication, organizational skills, and initiative. This is also a place to list hard skills that apply to your position. If Adobe Creative Cloud and app development are part of your technical skillset, list them here. If you received a degree in English, editing and proofreading might be part of your skills. List no more than twelve to keep the list succinct, and be truthful: Nothing is more embarrassing than being hired for skills you don’t have.
- Classwork, Projects, and Extra-Curricular Activities
Be descriptive about how your classwork, extra-curricular activities, special projects and campus activities developed your skills. From leading project teams or campus organizations to developing and producing large-scale projects or research and actively participating on a student committee or athletic team, suddenly you’ll realize you have more experience than previously thought.
A word to the wise: When constructing your resume, use strong action words to strengthen your position. Words like “assisted’, “helped “or ‘involved” sound weak when compared to a language such as “collaborated,” “led,” “produced,” and “created.” Your experience comes across much better when you’re purposeful with the words you use.
After you’ve completed the tasks above, check for errors. There’s nothing worse than inconsistent formatting and misspelled words. Spell check and proofread the resume more than once. A good editing trick is to step away from it after a first pass, and then read it backward. There are no details too small or big to miss. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
At the end of the day, what you want is a well-constructed marketing document that conveys who you are. Your education, and some well-defined examples of what you’ve done so the right people can see the qualities that you’d bring to their company.
Once created, tailor your resume as needed for any job application. But the first document is the most important. Best wishes for the start of your new career!