Simple Resume Tweaks to Help You Land Your First Job

Photo by rawpixel

Photo by rawpixel

By Amy McDonnell

School’s out… for good. You’ve closed your last textbook, said “peace out” to exams, and crossed your fingers that you’ll be able to find a job once the real world comes calling.

When it comes to your resume, what you think is “good enough” may not actually be enough for employers to give your credentials a second look. Consider highlighting your relevant student experiences in new ways, and you’ll be one step ahead on the journey to getting hired for your first job.

1. Showcase your internships.

“Even though you might not think your entry-level job or internship means much to the company or its customers, there are always ways to add value and then share that clearly on your resume,” says Elizabeth Wilson, CEO of Southern Home Buyers.

Whether at a local radio station, an organic farm in the south of France, or your aunt’s accounting firm, your internship experiences are an invaluable addition to your resume.

Your internship may have involved what you consider to be more menial work—or you may have had the chance to roll up your sleeves and get more deeply involved in work you enjoy. Either way, you will have gained experience along the way. as well as the opportunity to sharpen skills relevant to your industry. Even the seemingly mundane task of making coffee for your colleagues can prove to be a great opportunity for relationship-building.

If you’re still in school and are mid-internship, it’s vital that you take steps now to preserve your internship experiences for your resume later. “Make daily or weekly notes during your internship/job, so you can remember to highlight those ways you added value. You will be surprised at how much you will forget about those details,” advises Wilson.

If that ship has sailed, don’t fret: Take some time to think back on your internships and write down all the details and accomplishments you can remember—big or small. Craft those into a description with actionable bullet points for your resume.

2. Give back to the community.

It’s a good idea to help others in need simply because it’s the right thing to do—and it certainly doesn’t hurt that volunteering also looks great on a resume.

It’s never too late to get involved in your community, and there are countless ways to give back in a way that that feels right for you . Check out sites like VolunteerMatch or Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s directory of volunteering resources to find local events and groups. Sites like DoSomething.org are geared specifically toward student volunteers and give potential volunteers options to find a cause based on interests and how much time you have to help.

Even if you haven’t been a part of organized community service efforts, you probably did more during school to help others than you realize. Did you tutor –even informally – another student who was struggling? Participate in an ice bucket challenge-type activity, or bake brownies for a fundraising bake sale? These things may seem small, but they add up to make a big difference, and employers will likely notice your efforts and appreciate the inclusion of not only what you did, but also what you learned from it.

Many companies want to get a glimpse of who you are when you’re not “on the clock.” “Whether through volunteer work or the way they talk about their prior job, there is typically more information between the lines of a resume,” says Josh Quinn, co-founder and CEO of TigerTree.

3. Focus on long-term goals.

While the main objective may be to get a job (any job!) after graduation, it’s important to take a step back and think about your long-term goals and how to position your career trajectory to achieve them.

Use language that’s specific, professional, and reflects the education and skills you’ve worked hard to achieve during these last four years. If you put out a resume that reflects your values and achievements, you’re more likely to find a company that aligns with them in your search.

And when it comes to the job itself, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While a good salary, a fancy office, and cushy perks may be appealing, consider what long-term benefits you can gain, such as new skills, certifications, and starting down the path to building direct experience in a specialty in your field.

“Spend some time considering where you want to be in five to 10 years, and look for a job that serves that more than your immediate goals. I’ve seen too many people pass up positions that could deliver huge on responsibility and experience, that may lack a zip code or salary to brag about. It’s worth trading a little bit of comfort now to achieve your goals sooner,” says Quinn.

4. Translate extracurriculars to real-world skills.

If you were 10 years into your career, the advice on including extracurriculars from college would be much different. As a new or soon-to-be college grad, though, telling potential employers you were on the swim team or in the debate society can set you apart from other grads vying for similar jobs—depending on how you frame it.

It’s not just about including an endless list of club memberships, but about how you can apply your association with them to real-world situations. Include a brief bulleted list underneath your memberships and extracurriculars detailing the hard and soft skills you gained (psst… do this for your volunteering section as well). Perhaps you learned how to effectively delegate responsibilities as lacrosse team captain, or maybe a particular experience on the debate team shaped how you learned to listen more effectively. Employers will be more impressed to see the ways in which you’re able to translate your school activities into skills you will bring to the job.

Lastly, realize that you don’t know everything—and that that’s okay. Play up your strengths, and recognize where you still need to learn. “Know your weaknesses. Be honest about where you need growth,” says Quinn. “Don’t let your ego guide you to a job you won’t do well.”