College seniors: With winter in full effect and an entire semester of coursework lying ahead before you graduate, your job search may seem like the lowest item on your list of priorities. After all, you still have final projects and exams to contend with, a thesis to complete, and grad school plans to consider. The job market will be there waiting whenever you’re ready to step into it, so why rush?
The answer is simple: The more tasks and to-dos you take care of now, the less you’ll have to worry about when you step away from the shelter of academia and your loan bills start piling up. Address the details now— like drafting your resume —and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and land a job even before your graduation day arrives. Here are a few moves that can help you get started.
Create a Standout Summary Section
It’s time to come up with a succinct, one-sentence response to a question you’ll be answering over and over again for the rest of your life: “What do you want to do?” The answer you provide won’t be written in stone, and you won’t be held to it by any means. You’ll change it a thousand times before you reach retirement age. But the question still needs an answer, and it needs one now.
Once you’ve determined the type of job you’d like to pursue, come up with one thing you do—one unique talent or specific skill set—that will allow you to excel at this job better than anyone else in your age group. Those two items combined will be the heart and soul of your resume summary. Work these two answers into three short sentences explaining your long-term ambition (where you’d like to take your career in the future), your short-term ambition (your intended job title right now), and your most valuable talent in the eyes of potential employers.
Draw Attention to Your Education
This section won’t involve many complex decisions—you’ll just list each of your educational institutions, your courses of study, and your graduation dates. Include your GPA if it’s higher than 3.5. Add any formal, relevant certifications if you have them.
Highlight Your Relevant Experience
The “relevant experience” subheading can be the most challenging section of the resume, since most new graduates don’t have much formal work experience outside of part-time jobs and internships. Your goal for this section will be to list these experiences and describe them in a way that will have meaning for your potential employers. For example, if you worked on the retail floor of a clothing shop, don’t say you “assisted customers as necessary,” since this is fairly obvious. Instead, say you “learned the principles of customer service and customer relationship management first hand.” After your basic responsibilities, list any on-the-job awards you won, or any special accomplishments that no other candidate can claim.
In addition to jobs and internships you’ve held, think carefully back through your academic life and document your most challenging group projects, team accomplishments, and extra-curricular leadership roles. As you list and describe each one, try to keep your points relevant to the jobs you’d like to pursue.
Emphasize Your Best Skills
The “skills” section of your resume should contain a brief, relevant, hard-hitting list of things you can do that most other people can’t. Include software platforms and programming languages you’re familiar with, foreign languages you can speak, and special talents and certifications (like CPR) that show a sense of ambition, life experience, and initiative.
Use Perfect Resume Formatting
As you list and edit the items above, visit LiveCareer to make sure your resume falls in line with standard professional formatting and layout guidelines. The tools and templates on the site can help you create a polished impression and gain the employer attention you’ll need in order to land an interview.