As a recent graduate, you may not have a lot of professional experience to speak of, so how should you handle the work experience section of your recent graduate resume? Should you skip it completely? Should you list your babysitting and lawn mowing summer jobs? Should you oversell your two-month unpaid internship?
All of these are legitimate questions. In fact, if you did hold a two–month internship or start a local babysitting business when you were in high school or college, employers will want to learn about this experience and the skills you gained in these roles. There’s nothing wrong with boasting about the work you’ve done and the accomplishments you’ve achieved, no matter how small they may seem at this stage in your career.
And, while you’re at it, take the opportunity to showcase your academic work on your recent graduate resume. You’ve spent countless hours applying yourself inside and outside of the classroom, and these hours can tell employers plenty of positive things about your value as a future employee. Keep these tips in mind as you create your recent graduate resume.
1. Reword your headings
When you read tips about how to write a resume, you usually see advice for seasoned workers. Consider making small changes to tailor your document to your needs.
Instead of stating your subheading as “Job History” or “Professional Experience,” describe this section as “Relevant Experience.” This opens up new realms of possibility to convey your message on your recent graduate resume. Conduct research on the company and the position so that you know what these employers will consider relevant. Then, include anything that might fall under that umbrella.
Study the job description/job ad. The description/ad will clearly explain what the employer seeks. Note the skills and experiences the organization wants. (Typically, the most critical needs will appear at the top of the list.) List the skills and experiences that you have that the employer wants exactly as they appear in the description/ad.
2. List team projects and individual accomplishments
Before you start drafting and editing your recent graduate resume, get some blank paper and start generating list of your achievements.
To start, ask yourself: Over the last four to eight years, which of your academic projects were the most challenging? Which ones make you proudest? Which assignments taught you the most about the field you’re about to pursue? List the projects and battles you fought alone (like a graduate-level course you took when you were a freshman),and also the hurdles you faced with a team.
For example, you may want to include the balsa-wood bridge-building competition you won with your engineering classmates. Or, you may want to note the track team that you competed with for four years. And, don’t forget to detail situations where you took a leadership role in an organization.
3. Break down projects with bullet points stating the lesson and goals
List each project under your primary subheading. Then under each project, create a list of two to three bullet points. Find a consistent way to populate those points. You can list the primary lessons you gained from each project, the tricky challenges you faced, or the metrics used to determine project success. Each bullet should begin with an action verb. For anything you did in the past, the verb should be in past tense.
Find a consistent way to populate those points. You can list the primary lessons you gained from each project, the tricky challenges you faced, or the metrics used to determine project success.
Did you participate in a club, honor society, or sports team? Consider one important skill you learned that applies to the job at hand. Share this on your resume and get ready to talk about it in your interview. Job interviews are all about sharing stories about your experience.
4. Gather a list of awards and acknowledgments
Earning an A in a challenging course is definitely a victory, but how did your accomplishments extend beyond the classroom? List your science fair awards, your published poetry, or the viral reaction to the documentary you created for your film class. Even choreographing dance routines shows leadership and project management potential.
If you volunteered your time or raised money for a non-profit organization, then you should include this information as well. There are many opportunities to take leadership roles, even if you don’t have an official title.
5. Include your extracurricular activities
Don’t neglect your extracurricular victories as you organize the details of your document. Consider documenting successful projects and also non-classroom challenges. These could be arts clubs you participated in, sports teams you played on, or leadership organizations you were an official for.
6. Consider listing your education before your experience
When you have minimal work experience, you might want to place your education section above your experience section on your resume. It will be the first thing the hiring manager reads and will emphasize your career ambitions, rather than work experience that may not be targeted toward your desired career path.
As you gain experience, you will move your experience section above your education section. But, for now, rest assured that a recent graduate’s resume often wins more points in the education section than the work experience field.
7. Don’t give up
Finding a new job, especially when you are just out of school, takes time. You may receive pressure from parents or loved ones who found a job quickly when the job market was more favorable than it is now. They mean well, but they may not always be aware of the current market factors impacting your search.
To put things in perspective, at the end of April 2017, 67 percent of graduating college students did not have a job lined up. So, whatever you do, keep pushing forward. Write multiple drafts of your recent graduate resume and tailor these to specific jobs. Follow up with positions when you don’t hear back. In time, you will find a new job.
Resume Formatting Begins With Clear Organization
Your recent graduate resume can help you land a brilliant first job and launch your career into the stratosphere, but before that happens, your readers will have to understand and remember your primary points. This starts with clear organization and formatting, and LiveCareer can help with both. Take advantage of our resume builder and cover letter builder tools before finalizing your resume (and cover letter!) and hitting the Submit button.