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Posted on June 23, 2015 at 6:00 am
There is a first time for everything—including writing a resume.
It has been many years since I wrote my first resume, but I still remember how overwhelming it felt. Those feelings of anxiety recently resurfaced when I was working with a group of students who needed to prepare their first resume. Like many young adults, these high school students had minimal work experience. In preparation for instructing them, I found some great tips and suggestions for people in this situation—the best of which came from Donya Quarnstrom at Next Generation Zone. If you’re under 24-years-old, living in Spokane, and need career help—you definitely need to check out all the resources Next Generation Zone has to offer.
To start forming your first resume, begin by jotting down all of your skills and experiences that demonstrate you are right for the job, even if it will be your first one. In addition to part-time work, consider including babysitting jobs, lawn care gigs, volunteering positions, school service clubs like DECA, and maybe even impressive school projects. Brainstorm all the activities you’ve done and describe how they show off your impressive traits. Write down your most valuable attributes like being a responsible team player, extremely organized, admired leader, or mad computer programmer. Once you have a nice long list, it’s time to really get started.
There are several basic elements to a resume. First-time resume writers will likely only use a few: Heading, Skills, Experience, Education, and Interests (when appropriate).
Start with a Heading: your name and contact information at the top of the page. Your heading should be exactly the same—spelling, order, and font—on your resume, cover letter, references list, and any other documents you submit. Demonstrate your attention to detail and be consistent.
Next, Skills. List about 10-14 of the best skills you came up with in your earlier brainstorm into two bulleted columns. Ms. Quarnstrom made this suggestion, and I like it for a first resume. It is simple, straightforward, and allows for a mixture of talents and proficiencies. Focus on transferable skills, positive personal traits, and specific systems or tasks that you can do.
Experience should be your next element. This is where you list the places you’ve worked—part-time jobs, volunteering, babysitting etc. Name each place of business, your job title, dates of employment/service, and describe the job duties. Focus on using action words when describing your duties. Bullets are a nice, clean format to use.
Regardless of how extensive your work experiences is or isn’t, try to customize your resume by closely reading the description of the job to which you are applying and, when appropriate, include those key words in your descriptions and skills list. When your resume begins to grow, consider creating a master resume that has everything you’ve ever done on it. Then, when you apply for jobs, you will be able to pull from the master resume and create a tailored one for each application.
The next section is Education. It is recommended you only include the school you graduated from or are currently attending. The exception is a high school diploma or GED. If you are in college, it will be assumed you completed high school and there is no need to include it. List the highest level of education on top. If you are a recent college graduate, include accomplishments, academic awards, high GPAs, or specific areas of study. If you have certifications in fields that are related to the job, include them too.
There are times when it makes sense to include an Interests section. In the recent group I worked with, one student did not have much job experience, but had been in a martial arts program for many years. Even though karate might be considered a hobby, in this case, it demonstrated commitment and discipline so I recommended he include it. There was another student with extensive video game experience. He planned to apply for a position at a gaming store, so again, it made sense to include this as an interest. Every line on your resume is precious space, so before you devote any to hobbies or personal interests, ask: “Is it relevant to the job to which I’m applying?”
Few, if any, absolutes exist when it comes to resumes. There are differences of opinion, style, and situation. What is a “no-no” in one case, might be fitting in another. Before you consider a resume complete, ask friends or colleagues to proofread it and help you think through any questions. You also have access to free job coaches via JobNow. Every day between 2-10pm a job coach will review your resume for free. Take opportunities to talk with professionals about lessons they learned that led to their own success.