Congratulations, recent college graduate! While you’ve been working hard studying, you’ve also been dreaming of landing that great post-graduation job.
First, you’re going to have to write a great resume. While you may not have tons of work experience to share, there are some important resume tips that new grads need to make the leap to just-hired.
1. Play Up Your Strength: Studying
For new grads, the number one thing you’ve been focused on lately is being a good student and graduating from college. So make sure that on your resume, your education is front and center. Talk about your work ethic and how your grades or achievements reflect that hard work.
- Have good grades? Talk up your academic achievements.
- Got an award or otherwise distinguished yourself? Tell us about it.
- Studied in a field directly related to your career (or not)? Explain how your academic life prepared you for your prospective new job.
You don’t have to do all this work in your resume. Instead, save some of the details for your cover letter or a quick introductory point in an email. Remember: no HR person is going to examine each of your grades on your transcript, but they should have an idea as to why they should hire you.
2. Don’t Make Up Experiences
Nobody expects a new grad to come to the table with years of work already under their belts. But you shouldn’t “pad” that resume with a bunch of exaggerations, either. From awards to internships, your resume should be 100% true.
If you’re staring at a lot of white space on your resume, don’t fret! Here are some sections you might not have considered yet, that are perfect for recent graduates:
- List internships you completed, including objectives, projects you completed during the internship, and names and contact information for references.
- Note volunteer activities you’ve participated in. You don’t have to stick with just college volunteering, but also what you did in high school if it’s not too far in the past. Some examples might include: church activities, clubs, and certifications like CPR or life-guarding, or other volunteer actions.
- Talk about your interests and objectives. A major doesn’t necessarily define your job prospects. What makes you a good hire can also be a matter of the way you think, how you like to work, or even your ultimate career goals.
3. Do Talk About Your Career Dreams
You just got out of school and you should be in a great place to talk about why you did all that hard work in the first place. College ultimately is about preparing students for the rigors of working in the real world. If you’ve studied history and now want to teach social studies — talk about your passion for the subject. If you’ve majored in biology but want to get involved in genetic research that could lead to a medical breakthrough, then spend some time sharing that idea.
Great places to get a little “dreamy” on your new-grad resume include:
- An “objective” statement at the top. Use 1-2 sentences to clearly spell out your career goals.
- A “summary” section detailing how all your experiences (even if they’re just academic so far) have prepared you well for the work force.
- A “skills” section where you can detail any programs (think past just Microsoft Word to in-demand software in your chosen field) or “soft skills” that you’re proficient in. Soft skills include things like being a good communicator, working well in groups, and thinking on your feet in times of crisis.
- A “class projects” section where you can bring academic projects to light. If you spent a semester creating a class project that relates to your chosen field, then talk about that on your resume.
4. Make Sure Your References Are On Board
You may have some professors or former supervisors that you’d think would love to sing your praises, but have you asked them yet? Teachers take vacations, too, and also may not check academic email accounts or voicemails as often in the summer. If you’re putting them down as a reference, make sure to ask them if that would be alright, first. Also ask what’s the best way for a prospective employer to get in touch.
If you’ve just finished school, go ahead and email or call your potential references now, before they slip away for summer break. If you haven’t gotten the OK from them, don’t put them down as a reference yet.
5. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
Sending off a dozen copies of your resume with a big typo in them is pure nightmare fuel. When you’re done writing your resume, print it out and then review it slowly. Try reading each section carefully and then speak each sentence out loud. If it sounds awkward when you say it, it’ll be awkward to read it too. Have a friend read it over for you and see what their impressions are.
Another option is to take it by your college’s career center and have an expert read it over for you. The more feedback you can get, the better! And when you’re done, make sure you save it somewhere secure, whether it’s on your computer in a carefully labeled folder (don’t email out an old version by mistake) or on the cloud for easy access (make sure your accounts are safely protected).
Bottom line: Use your resume to show a little of who you are. One of the hardest things to do is express your true self on a piece of paper. But you can show a potential employer something about your personality by the way you write, your attention to detail, and your determination to excel. Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished so far, graduate! And good luck on your job search!