For entry-level job seekers, resume writing seems like a catch-22: You need a resume to get a job, but you need experience to put on a resume. How are you supposed to show that despite your lack of professional experience you’re ready to jump in and make an impact? Entry-level resumes do look different from resumes for professionals with extensive experience, but many of the same resume-writing principles apply. Here are a few tips for how to package yourself effectively as you start your job search.
1. Emphasize your education.
On resumes for established professionals, educational details are generally presented as the final section, after the details on career history. The reason for this is that once you’ve been out of school for a while, your professional track record matters more in defining what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing in the future. If you’ve just graduated, however, it makes more sense to highlight your education up front, including the date of graduation. This positions you as a promising new candidate ready to go out and make a difference.
2. Include extracurricular activities and involvement.
If you’re a new (or newish) graduate, including your extracurricular activities can be a good way to show what you’ve accomplished even as a student. This is particularly important if you’ve held any leadership roles. Such details are considered irrelevant on resumes for more experienced professionals, but for new job seekers, it makes sense to include them.
3. Focus on the groundwork.
If the only jobs you’ve had so far involve administrative work in the admissions office, don’t despair. When describing these sorts of jobs on your resume, focus on what you delivered, and on what you learned. Did you take the initiative with a project? improve a process? provide exceptional service to university staff? earn Employee of the Month recognition at the bookstore? Think about the skills and experiences that show the kind of person you are and what you’re capable of—the things that “lay the groundwork” for future success.
4. Keep it short.
Entry-level job seekers will almost always need no more than a one-page resume that clearly communicates your objective, your education, your background, and your key skills. If you’ve been in school for a very long time and have ten part-time jobs behind you, there’s no need to spend two pages detailing every one of them. Focus on what’s most relevant for your search, and simply mention the others in a note at the end of your resume. (“Previous experience also includes roles as…”)
5. Use dynamic language and a good positioning statement.
Starting each sentence on your resume with a strong action verb will demonstrate your professionalism and clearly communicate your skills and experiences thus far. A positioning statement at the beginning of your resume, which encapsulates your skills, achievements, and objectives in a concise, attention-getting paragraph, will help readers see what your education and experience add up to—and why they make you such a promising candidate.
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