The last few years have been a rough time for college students and high school graduates looking to get onto the career ladder. All the excitement, hope and optimism of seeing that first hard-earned paycheck seem to have vanished as the job market has ground to a halt.
Few companies are hiring, and it seems like more people than ever are applying for the few jobs that are available. For new graduates, this presents something of a problem.
With the current high unemployment rate, there’s an enormous pool of experienced workers chomping at the bit for the chance to get back into a job, and employers are more than happy to take them on at rock bottom wages. For employers this is a great deal; it costs a lot in time and effort to train a new worker. Because of this, graduates are feeling the pinch.
However, all hope is not lost. Even with little experience in the work place, it’s possible to snag that all-important first job. You just have to get a little creative with your resume, and make sure what little experience you do have shines you in the best light possible. Here are three tips to spruce up your resume:
Don’t Jazz Up Your History
If you spent a summer helping out at a local restaurant or garage you might be tempted to make it sound as if you were doing a little more than washing dishes or waxing hoods. Employers can see through this – they read resumes every day – and it’s not worth employing hyperbole in your employment history.
Instead, be honest with your history. Own it. If you spent a summer washing dishes, and you can get a reference, that shows prospective employers that you understand the value of hard work. It shows you can turn up on time and buckle down. It shows that you’re responsible. Any experience will help your application, just as long as it’s real.
Talk About Your Extracurricular Activities
What if you’ve never so much as worked a paper route? Well, that’s where extracurricular activities come in to play. Highlighting volunteer work or internships can help give employers an idea of the kind of employee you’ll be. Anything you’ve done can help: participation in sports teams, odd jobs, after-school clubs or unpaid work experience will all show that you’re more than a one-dimensional character.
It may seem a little silly to list things like this on your resume, but you should remember that employers understand that we all have to start out somewhere. We can’t all boast decades of experience, but we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about what little we do have.
Write Like a Pro
If this is your first resume, you may be tempted to add a little character in an effort to stand out from the crowd. A striking font, perhaps, or even scented paper.
Don’t do it. Nobody appreciates having to plow through paragraphs of comic sans, colored paper and perfume. Your resume should tell prospective employers that you’re a serious candidate prepared for the responsibility of a career. It should scream professionalism.
Here’s the brief: use heavy weight, high quality white or off-white paper. Black ink only, printed in a standard font. Your contact information should be accurate, complete, and professional (use an email address that sounds like it belongs to an adult), and you should on no account allow spelling or grammatical errors to slip through. Ask a parent or teacher to proofread it when you’re done.
It often seems as if snagging that first job presents a maddening Catch-22. You need experience to get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience.
However, the truth is that with the right resume you can present yourself to an employer as exactly the kind of candidate they like to see: young, hungry and professional, a blank canvas to be molded into a model employee.
Work experience isn’t everything. Employers are looking for the right candidate, and that isn’t always the person with the greatest number of years behind them.
Do you have any other tips to share? Please do so in the spaces below.
About the author:
Sani Golriz is a community blogger and active staff writer for CollegeFocus, a website dedicated to helping students deal with the challenges of college, including housing, finance, style, health, relationships, and transferring from a community college to a four-year university.
You can follow CollegeFocus on Twitter at @CollegeFocus101 and Facebook atwww.fb.com/collegefocus.