So, you’re ready to apply for your first job or internship. You are excited to find a company where your knowledge and talents can be used to advance its cause or add to the bottom line. There’s just one problem: You don’t know what to put on your resume, since you have little or no professional experience.
How do you demonstrate your potential to prospective employers? Here are three steps to creating an entry-level resume that will help you shine.
1. Describe Your Education in Detail
In a standard resume, your Education section typically lists your university, area of study, and graduation date, like the example below.
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Bachelor of Arts, Major in Marketing (2016)
But when you don’t have much professional experience, you can expand the Education section, and use it to showcase some of the knowledge and experience you gained in school — even if you have not completed your degree yet.
Here is what an expanded Education section might look like:
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Bachelor of Arts, Major in Marketing (Expected Graduation: 2017)
Relevant coursework: Marketing Research, Product and Pricing Strategy, Digital Marketing, Consumer Behavior
(list only a few courses that are most relevant to your desired job)
Relevant projects: Worked with 3 other students to draft marketing plan for a local nonprofit fundraiser. Conducted market research survey for on-campus startup (compiling info from 2 focus groups and 128 survey responses).
(include school projects that involve real-world application of skills)
This second version gives further details on the job candidate’s schoolwork and activities, which provides valuable insights and experience to help them succeed at their first job or internship.
2. Include Non-Work Experience
Your professional experience in your field may be limited. But chances are, you have other forms of experience that will help the employer see why you are a good candidate. Here are a few additional types of experience you can include.
Part-time or summer jobs. It’s true that the experience from your summer job washing dishes or gardening may not be directly relevant to the position you want today. But you can make yourself a desirable candidate by briefly demonstrating ways you overcame challenges, helped customers, or otherwise demonstrated responsibility. For example:
Server at Bob’s Country Grill (Chicago, IL)
Welcomed customers, ensured orders were conveyed accurately to cooks, and provided a positive customer experience by accommodating customer requests for up to 30 diners nightly.
Volunteer work. Did you work with a community organization or charity in your neighborhood? You can include include an entry under “Experience” that details the ways you helped the organization.
Volunteer Fundraiser at School Sup (New York, NY)
Raised $5480 to provide school supplies to underprivileged children by organizing a karaoke fundraiser and email marketing campaign.
Hobbies. Do you have a major hobby that you have contributed a lot of time and effort to? Even if it is not directly relevant to your desired position, you can list the ways you have gone above and beyond, and the skills that you gained. For example, here is a resume excerpt from a video game enthusiast.
Co-Organizer of Neighborhood Video Game Meet-up (Miramar, CA)
Hosted monthly meetings for 8-12 video game enthusiasts. Organized group trip to the Los Angeles Video Game Expo, coordinating train tickets and hotel stay for 7 people.
3. List Skills and Other Accomplishments
Be sure to provide a list of applicable work skills that you have acquired, even if you haven’t yet had a chance to use them. It is best to stick primarily to hard skills (i.e., easily provable competencies, such as proficiency in Microsoft Word). Soft skills like “effective communication skills” and “hard worker” are best kept to a minimum; it is better to show these skills through your education and experience. However, an exception can be made when you can “prove” these skills. For example, if you have “excellent writing skills,” you may want to provide a link to a portfolio that demonstrates this.
WordPress, PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS3
Strong sense of visual design (see examples at mywebsite.com)
You should also consider your other accomplishments that can illustrate your talents. For example, have you received any awards, or been elected to any student government posts? List these here.
Winner of the Computer Science Department “Top Coder” Prize
Elected Vice-President of the Computer Science Department Student Council
A Final Word: Do Not Try to “Fill in Space”
Even if you feel you have very little to say, the last thing you want to do is make your resume “seem” longer with unnecessary words and irrelevant details. Employers know that as a student or young graduate, your experience is limited. But when you add fluff, it makes your resume boring and unappealing. It’s much better for your resume to be shorter and simpler, but for every word and piece of information to be meaningful.