Student Resume Writing with Little or No Job Experience
Sitting in front of a blank white screen to write your first or student resume can seem like a daunting task. Resume writing is a tough enough job for the average job hunter, creating the student resume can be a real challenge for the new graduate with no direct career experience.
For many new college graduates the excitement of graduation quickly wears off when reality sets in: a new chapter called ‘job hunting’ has begun. After years of late night study sessions, pop quizzes, and final exams you have finally earned your degree. Now get ready for some new tests. Employers are going to test, poke, and prod you to see if you will fit the criteria they need.
You are going to need to convince the employer that you are ready and qualified for the position. As a new candidate on the job market, the fewer questions you create in the mind of the employer, the better. You can start by strategically writing a resume that shows off your accomplishments and qualifications, instead of focusing on your lack of experience.
1. Understand the Employer Perspective
Understand the qualifications the employer needs in you. Why? …because the employer is making an investment. Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. They are in need of a service, the employer would like to invest money to buy a product that resolves the issue, and they will research to find the best solution. You and the rest of the candidates are the products.
How do you get them to buy you? You market yourself to their need. You advertise yourself. You create a direct mail piece that will get your foot in the door: a resume.
Resume writing is like writing a sales brochure about the product; YOU.
In your resume, you need to answer the employer’s question: why is this candidate qualified for our position?
I implore you to read my book Employer Secrets for a perspective on employers that will help you become ‘employer desirable’ and put you light years ahead in job hunting skills.
2. Customize and Tailor Every Resume
Because your resume needs to directly address the needs of the employer, you need to customize every resume you send. Tailor the resume to the employer’s needs. Leave out any information that is insignificant, and add information relevant to the position open.
Some people think the objective is the most important part of resume writing. While the objective can be left off a resume, the recent graduate could include one that states the career goal in terms of the employer’s interests. Resume writing should be about customizing your resume to each employer depending on their advertised needs. Use the keywords the employer has used in the advertisement. A targeted resume beats out a generic resume every time.
3. Transfer Your Experience
The catch 22 that plagues college graduates is this: you spent four years earning a degree in your field of interest, but now you’re hearing from employers that you need experience to get a job. You need a job to get experience!
There is a solution to this problem. Although you may not have experience in the field, you surely have experience that can transfer over to the field you wish. Waiting tables, for example, gives you great work experience. While waiting tables might not directly apply to your new career path, this job gives you experience in communication and customer service skills that are transferable.
Consider including any volunteer work and experience in clubs or sports and any offices held. List the work related skills you gained from these associations.
Transferable skills include:
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Teamwork skills
- Leadership abilities
- Management experience
- Creative talent
Any positions that gave you the opportunity to hone the skills listed will allow the employer to see that even though you may not have direct experience, you have some of the skills they need.
4. Focus on Accomplishments
You can show transferable skills by focusing on your accomplishments. An accomplishment driven resume helps the employer see what type of worker you are. Your accomplishments show how you have contributed to an organization or previous employer.
Start by making a list of your accomplishments. Ask yourself if you have received praise or recognition from anyone. Have you ever received a promotion? Have you ever worked on an extremely challenging project?
Once you have written down every accomplishment that makes you proud, put the accomplishments into sentence form. Make strong statements about you how changed the project dynamic for the better. Do you have specific instances that you could use to show your success?
While volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation I raised $21,437.
5. Use Power Words
Resume writing requires exhibiting your accomplishments effectively, so you will need to use strong words. These words pack a much larger impact than using past tense ‘standard’ resume language. You will find power words at the Resume Dictionary. These words show that you have done something, instead of focusing on the fact that the accomplishment was done in the past. Look at the example to see which statement sounds more proactive:
A. Received the Volunteer of the Year Award, 2011.
B. Earned the Volunteer of the Year award, 2011.
Option A hardly gives you credit for the accomplishment. The statement makes you seem as if you were given something without working. Option B clearly shows that you had to work to receive the award. Option B is a much better way to phrase the statement. Option B gives you credit for your award.
Know Your Student Resume
Make sure you know what is on your resume. While hiring candidates I have asked questions about the skills, education, and experience on their resumes. Many have looked just like the kid in class called on to answer a question who was paying no attention. If you don’t know what’s on your own resume, how do you expect an employer to believe you know much of anything?
Although you may not have the experience the company is seeking, that does not mean that your experience does not count. Emphasizing your skills and accomplishments will showcase you for a new position and in the hiring process, optimism, professionalism, and a great attitude can help overcome many shortcomings in experience.
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