Before writing your resume you’ll no doubt go online to research a few writing tips, and end up reading article after article giving advice on what and what not to put: “do not exceed two pages in length, begin with most recent work history, highlight your key career achievements in a separate section…”
This is all great advice, however as an Entry-Level applicant, chances are you have limited experience and the first obstacle you face is finding enough useful information to fill one page.
As an experienced CPRW (certified professional resume writer) over the years I’ve met with thousands of stressed young job seekers, most of which were battling through the process of writing their first resume in pursuit of a decent job, following their college graduation. In nearly all these cases, the same four rules helped them overcome common issues faced by nearly all entry-level job-seekers, quickly putting them on the fast track to career success. Here’s my top four tips on how to write an inspiring entry-level resume.
1. Expound your Education:
Entry-level resumes often look bare. Most college graduates worry about this and go to great lengths to fill their resume using complicated formatting tricks and oversized text fonts. These are not the solution however, and only serve to highlight your problem.
What is important is that you demonstrate your knowledge and ability in the industry you’re applying for. To help beef up your resume you want to focus on your education, expounding the specific classes you took that illustrate your knowledge and expertise relevant to the job and industry you’re applying to, that indicates you’re a good choice for interview.
Always research the company you’re applying to and the specific demands of the job at hand. Reflect on what classes you sat that taught you relevant knowledge, and then highlight these under your education section.
Job: Junior analyst at Barney Rubble
Business Consultancy firm (a major US/Asian conglomerate)
Degree: Major in Business administration,
minor in Chinese language.
Relevant classes to highlight: Business language in Chinese, oral proficiency, etc.
A dull education section briefly summarizing the school you attended and your major, suddenly transforms into an engaging exposition of your key areas of expertise, actively marketing your unique knowledge. The additional content will also help make your resume look more complete.
2. Give Yourself A Professional Title:
Branding is a major aspect of job searching. You’re trying to create your own brand idea – one that portrays you as a professional with valuable expertise and knowledge. Even if you’ve only just graduated, you can still identify yourself as an expert, and you are! Take into account the field of work you want to apply for, your major, and build your resume around that. Top resumes always include a title at the start of the document, usually incorporated alongside the person’s name. For example:
Susan Williams | Administrative Assistant
Senior Accounts Executive & Sales Manager
If you graduated with a major in accountancy and finance then give yourself the title Accountant and Financial Specialist. If you’re looking for work in, for example operations management, then title yourself an Operations Manager. In this case, it would be a good idea to revise your college books including anything you studied about operations management, but this will certainly separate yourself from other entry-level applicants and help build confidence that you’re the right choice.
3. Swap your Career Objective for a Professional Summary:
This is a double-edged sword. First, by removing your career objective and replacing it with a professional summary section, you’ll help build your personal brand. A summary section helps portray you as a professional, a specialist, and an expert. By writing a lengthier summary section you are saying: “I am a qualified expert in industry X and I have skill and knowledge to offer you”.
Additionally, nowadays most resume experts consider a career objective to be a waste of space on your resume. In theory, the purpose of a career objective is to show that your interests align with those of the company you’re applying to and that your goal is to work for them thus benefitting their organization. But this is already demonstrated, by the mere fact that you’re applying in the first place. This ultimately renders you’re your career objective redundant – redundancy is a big no-no on a resume! By following my advice, you won’t only be removing a redundant section from your resume, but you’ll be replacing it with something far more effective.
How to write a Professional Profile
A professional profile is a short introductory paragraph that highlights your key strengths, skills, and areas of expertise. It should be no more than 3–4 sentences long. You want to create an impactful paragraph that markets your unique skill set – it is your 30-second elevator pitch.
The purpose of this paragraph is that (as is often the case) if the hiring manager only reads your resume for a few seconds, they will instantly be impressed. Incorporate three key selling points: your degree and major, any relevant experience you have, any key skills you have developed. Make sure you outline your ambition to perform within the given industry. Include any achievements, use industry buzz words central to you’re the job being advertised, and use inspiring, active language. Keep it concise, cut unnecessary language usage; consider it your “headline”.
4. Only Include Credible Professional Experience:
I’ve worked with students, college grads and young professionals that have been told to incorporate any and all professional experience they have on their resume, even the baby-sitting jobs they did during high school. They were told to extract the key skills from these jobs and apply these in their new resume – this is wrong.
When considering what’s best to put on your resume, think logically. What will most impress a recruiting manager? Someone telling them that their baby-sitter job each Saturday night taught them cash handling skills? That their understanding of logistics is based on delivering papers aged 13? This is more likely to reflect badly on you, in my honest opinion.
Most college students have held a part-time job, worked an internship, or have been involved in volunteer work. When writing your professional experience section, focus on this type of experience, and develop a structured exposition of the necessary skills you developed. A professional experience section featuring one well presented work experience will be far more effective than a lengthy section detailing lots of minor, far-fetched stories loosely linking teenage gardening chores to entry level accounting!
What if I have no proper experience?
If you don’t have any professional experience, then its time to go and get some. Go to your library, local community center, or contact a career advisor at your school and ask about volunteer work programs. Consider what industry you are targeting career-wise, and then look for volunteer programs that will provide relevant experience. You’ll be able to start in no time, and you’ll only need to do a few hours a week to gain something that will substantially impact your resume. What’s more, you’ll be learning real life skills that will become highly valuable once you get your foot in the door somewhere to begin your career!
Finding a job fresh out of college isn’t always easy, it takes perseverance, confidence and even a bit of luck. There are many factors that will affect your chances with each application you make – the once factor you have control over is your resume. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to turn the odds in your favor. Good luck!
Author: Howard Davies is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and career coach at Resume Writer Direct, a US leader in online resume and career services.