Let’s face the disheartening truth; right out of college or high school, it may not seem that you have much to offer an employer. You have a limited number of years behind you when you could have held a job, and any such experience was likely to be at the lowest level. How can you convince an employer to give you a chance and break into the job market? What will set you apart from the mass of other recent grads as well as more mature job seekers? Apart from keeping your record free of arrests and not publishing compromising photographs of yourself on social media, your most useful tool is your resume. We’ll look here at some ways to maximize the impact of your resume when you are just starting out.
Do Your Homework, Part One:
Ah, you were under the impression that when you received your diploma you could stop researching, remembering, thinking analytically, and horror of horrors…writing, didn’t you? Well, sorry campers, but these tasks are far from over for you, if you want to get your career started.
You need to research yourself first. You need to figure out what you have in your portfolio and this requires accounting for your time over the last several years. List for your own eyes (preferably on a computer so you can copy-paste later):
- Paid jobs?
- Tasks you did you did on a volunteer basis, and for whom?
- Extracurricular activities?
- How you spent your summers? Travel? Babysitting? Video games? Hanging at the mall? Recreation program? Write it all down!
- Honors, awards, any mentions in the local press, or anything else that singles you out for positive attention?
- Your private interests (the ones that can be discussed with strangers)? Restoring vintage cars, archery, stop-action animation, bass fishing, bird-watching, building computers from scratch, vegan cuisine, impersonating Michael Jackson…these are all the passionate pursuits of real young people, and they are all things that should be written down on your list.
- What were the topics of your major research papers (almost everyone has to write something substantial before they can exit high school and certainly out of college).
Do Your Homework, Part Two:
Oh, the misery! Get over it – this is adult life! You need to research the employers that interest you. Learn as much as you can about publicly traded companies and registered charitable organizations from their annual reports. Investigate private firms by asking questions of people who may know the organizations, or from their internet presence. Be discreet but persistent in finding out what the firm DOES. You can infer from that what the firm NEEDS. That can help you to write your resume purpose statement.
Analyze your assets:
Figure out what each experience involved. This requires some deep thought, and you may need some help with this. Richard Bolles; author of What Color is Your Parachute, is the ultimate source for this task.
Target your resume:
Using the information obtained from your research on yourself and on the firms that interest you, generate custom resumes for each opportunity. This shows that you care, and helps the person reading the resume to find what is relevant – FAST!
Edit and proofread:
There is no excuse for misspellings or grammatical errors in your resume. That should be enough to say.
You have something to offer, no matter how limited your experience, if only that you are willing to learn. You can package yourself attractively, if you do the basic tasks outlined above, before you send out your first job inquiry.