Recent college graduates entering the workforce tend to hit a wall when it comes to writing their resume. What should I include? How to write a resume if I have no work experience? The good news is that, with few exceptions, the rest of your peers are all in the same boat: no experience, but hungry for opportunity.
According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) there are 1,855,000 new college graduates from the class of 2015. In other words, you are far from alone. Employers are aware of the fact that you just finished college. They don’t expect you to show a resume flush with professional experiences. So, in that sense, you’re off the hook.
But that doesn’t mean that you still won’t be able to write an impressive resume. Without any tweaking, lying or exaggeration, you’ll be able to present your best self to future employers by following a few tips.
Don’t be afraid to include summer jobs
If you worked part or full-time during your college years, even if it was flipping burgers in your home town during the summer, make sure to include it. Even if the job you held is totally unrelated to the field you’re planning to enter, the fact that you have job experience counts for something. You learned to be accountable, you learned to take orders from superiors and work with others.
If you were given extra responsibilities such as making bank deposits, opening or closing the establishment, or training new employees, include it on your resume. Employers want to know who you are and what qualities you possess. Don’t try to be the “ideal” candidate. Tell them what your real experiences have been and let them judge if you’re a fit for them.
List internships or relevant jobs instead of coursework
If you happen to have had the good fortune and determination to land an internship and paid position in your field of interest, include them. In this case, you’re better off focusing your resume on these experiences than on coursework during college.
List coursework if you haven’t had professional experience
yet So, you haven’t had internships or paid positions in your area of study. That’s not uncommon. But you did take four years of international business courses and interviewed well-known business leaders for your final research paper. Or you’re an art major and took an art restoration course in Italy last summer. Anything that shows your preparation to enter into this field, even if you haven’t had practical experience yet, is valuable.
List extracurricular activities
Especially if these were areas you excelled in and if they show leadership. If you attended a few meetings of the Environmental Club, don’t list it. List activities in which you had full and significant participation. Captain of the varsity rowing team, class president, editor of the college newspaper, peer interviewer for college applicants… You get the picture.
Don’t embellish or lie
The worst way to start out your post-graduation career is by lying. Exaggerating skills or flat-out making things up on your resume will only get you into trouble. No matter how badly you want a certain position, bragging about expertise you don’t possess will give you more problems than you can handle. You likely won’t be able to perform the job you were hired to do, and by the time employers realize this, you will have done a lot of damage to your reputation. Your time would have been better spent acquiring the skills you need than trying to fake it.
Pay attention to language
A resume isn’t just a list of skills nor is it an expository essay. At its best, it’s a carefully crafted summary of your most relevant experiences. Short pronoun-free and fluff-free sentences that use action verbs make winning resumes.
Don’t write this: “I spent last summer waking up at 5 am to take the train to the city, since punctuality is my specialty. I was given access to client portfolios and was asked for my contribution in how to increase their capital. I performed various administrative duties and participated in important executive meetings. All in all, I performed to the satisfaction of my superiors.”
Instead, try this: “Acquired practical knowledge of executive office culture. Projected investment capital possibilities for firm’s clients, some of them multi-billion dollar ones. Brainstormed with industry leaders on ideas to increase capital by 100% within the next two business quarters.”
The first one is too long and full of non-essential information. Showing up on time for work, for example, is a given, and doesn’t earn you bragging rights. The second simmers down your internship into a sumptuous description of relevant experiences and details.
The GPA rules
If your GPA is over 3.0, you’re encouraged to include it. If it’s lower, leave it off. If your GPA for coursework in your major is higher than your overall GPA, list your GPA for your major. Especially if you’re applying to positions that relate to your major.
List honors and awards
If you made the dean’s list, were granted a prestigious scholarship or earned any other awards from your college, make sure to list it.
Don’t include references
A list of references is basically the same as fluff. Don’t include it. Use your resume to highlight important information about yourself that employers want to know. If you do a good job with that, then you can give them your list of references in person when you land an interview.
Develop a professional social media life
You’re leaving college and entering the working world. Your online life will need to reflect this. If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot and include relevant information that isn’t on your resume. Consider creating a professional website or blog to showcase your expertise in your area. If you already have one, include a link to it on your resume. Don’t include links to your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Learn to separate the professional from the personal.