Writing Your First Resume

By Francine Fabricant

Are you preparing to search for an internship or your first job? Writing a resume before you have relevant work experience can be difficult, especially if you’re not be sure what to include. However, it is possible to create a great resume that is filled with experiences you gained as a student.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Check Job and Internship Listings First

Not sure how to get started writing your resume? I teach students to “write their resume backwards.” Choose a job or internship listing that interests you, and write down all the experiences and activities you think qualify you for that opportunity. This will lead to a targeted resume, designed specifically for the positions that interest you most!

“But I don’t have any experience!”

The biggest challenge I hear from students about resume writing is that they don’t feel they have any valuable experience. You might be surprised to learn that employers are hoping to hear about your student experiences.  A student resume should include internships or relevant work experiences – if you’ve had them – but also courses and course projects, student activities and leadership roles, part-time jobs, and volunteer roles. These show your interests and also provide evidence of transferable skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and reliability.

Use A Sample Resume

Sample resumes can serve as a guide, providing inspiration for resume sections and formatting. I suggest writing the resume without a resume template, because they embed formatting that can be difficult to remove. We have a number of case study samples in Chapter 8: Tools of Creating Career Success that include a target position selected for each case study student. An example of this can be found online, in the sample online career portfolio.

For examples that highlight student experiences in a resume, check out this sample chronological resume and more from Quintessential Careers. Your career center may also offer samples that reflect the specific courses and majors at your school.

Choosing Resume Fonts and Sections

While there are some design elements that are more common for resumes, one of the best ways to discover the fonts, layout, and design options that suit your industry and career goals is to review other people’s resumes.  I found a large number of very high-quality, well-designed free resume samples shared online by Blue Sky Resumes, a resume-writing business. These are written for experienced candidates, so they also can offer insights into what your resume might include in the future.

Ask for Feedback

After you have written your resume, ask someone to look it over for content, grammar, and spelling.  Consider sharing it with a career counselor, a mentor, a professor, or your networking contacts.  Show your connections your target job listing, and possibly some of the sample resumes you used when you prepared your resume. With these tools, they can reflect on how well your resume meets the employer’s “wish list” of requirements.  This will make it easier for others to offer feedback that is directly related to your career goals.

Once you’ve prepared your first resume, you will feel more comfortable getting started with career and recruiting activities offered at your school. Check the calendar at your career center.  They may have activities, such as a career and internship fair, at the start of the next semester! 

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