Writing a resume when you don’t have a lot of work experience can be daunting. But even if your only real job was working at the local McDonalds, there are other ways to fill up your resume and show employers what an excellent candidate you are.
Your resume, especially as you are just starting out, should be one page long. Do not feel it necessary to “pad” it out with information that is not relevant (or that’s a lie!). Employers will expect that this is the first professional job you are applying to, so don’t feel embarrassed or the need to apologize for your lack of experience.
To get started, your resume should be organized by order of importance, following this format:
An objective states who you are as a professional and which position you hope to obtain. You should list a career objective if (and only if) you’re certain about what you’re looking for. If you are vague about your goals, you will do more harm than good if you list something like, “promising position in a forward-looking company.” You can also customize this statement to the job you are applying to.
Be proud that you are a graduate (or soon to be graduate) of a great school! Add the name of the university, your degree, relevant courses, and GPA if it’s impressive. If you achieved any academic honors, mention those here as well.
List experience (paid or unpaid) that relates to your career goal. This includes internships, TA positions, and work study. Even jobs you may think of as menial should be listed here. Demonstrating that you have work experience is important, even if it is not directly related to your goals. Take a hard look at the tasks you did and the work you accomplished at each job. How can you make it seem appealing to an employer? Provide bullet points that indicate what you did, and look at it broadly. If you were a babysitter, explain that you provided recreational activities, did homework tutoring, and make nutritional snacks.
If you led a fundraiser, managed a club, volunteered regularly, or were captain of a sports team, these can all show that you have valuable skills. Be detailed, and treat these positions as if they were jobs. When you are just starting out, these items can be just as important as an internship or other work experience to a potential employer.
- Use a thesaurus. “Helped” is a boring word that is not going to set you apart. Use action words like “collaborate,” “consolidate,” “convince,” “promote,” “publicize” and “persuade” instead.
- Be detailed and add numbers
- Quantifying how much money you dealt with as a cashier or how many team members you managed can make a menial job look more impressive. Even if you think it’s a job no one will be interested in, adding these details can help immensely.
Reconsider your experience
Before you write your resume, try a “brain dump” and write down everything you’ve been involved in, including: courses, clubs, sports teams, jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, leadership positions, and more. Ask yourself why you enjoyed that work and what you learned from it. Think about if that position aligns with your career goals in any way. If it does, find a way to work it in. Even if its not impressive on the surface, the individual work you did can help distinguish your resume.