November 05, 2012

How to Write Your First Resume

So you have little to no work experience but you want a part time job, a scholarship, admission to college, or an internship. The first thing you'll probably need is a resume, but getting started on your very first (or even 50th) resume can be pretty intimidating. So let's make it easy and go step-by-step to help you build it. First, you'll need a place to write (paper, tablet, phone), something to write with, and anything you might need (computer files, Facebook account, Mom's photo album or scrapbook, collection of trophies in your bedroom) to help you remember anything interesting you've done over the past few years.


Step 1: Get Inspired
Before you write a resume you need an idea of what you're going for. The purpose of a resume is to essentially sell yourself and your experiences and qualification in one, concise piece of paper. So you want it to be easy to read, well-organized, and impressive. Purdue University's writing website has some great resources for anything you might need to write, including a resume. Their page helps explain the purpose of a resume and provides some good examples, so check that our for some ideas and inspiration.

Step 2: List
Start by making as extensive of a list as you possibly can of any jobs, volunteer work, accomplishments, awards, honors, blogs, recognitions, special projects, clubs, articles, memberships, hobbies, classes taken, honor societies, music groups, summer camps, training or leadership programs, mentorships, etc. that you've been involved over the several years. Don't limit yourself here, put any and everything you can think of. Maybe you were on student council, your high school musical, soccer team, dance classes, and held a summer job. Maybe you attended GRAMMY Camp and were featured in the newspaper. Maybe you won a contest that required to write an essay or submit a business idea. Maybe you scored well on your SATs or you have a high GPA. Maybe you were Prom Queen or Class President. Maybe your band spent the summers touring the country. Maybe you were in Glee Club or even the AV Club. Maybe you took classes at your local college before you even graduated high school. Maybe you regularly volunteer with Habitat for Humanity or help with mission trips for your church. Maybe you run a photography or fashion blog. Whatever it is that you participate in or excel at, write it down. Include dates of when you started and stopped each activity where possible.

Step 3: Choose
Now that you have your list, you can begin to determine which items you'd like to include in your actual resume. Your resume isn't like a paper you write for class, it won't ever really be finished and just turned in. As you accomplish new things or apply for new opportunities it will grow and change with you. That's where your initial list comes in.  Your time spent babysitting may not seem so relevant when you apply for an internship at a TV station, but it could help if you realize you're more interested in teaching and working with children. When you choose what items to include in your resume, consider your goals and purpose. If you are applying for a job or internship you'll want to showcase the items that demonstrate the type of skills and interests your future employer might be looking for. If you're applying for college, they'll likely be looking for academic achievement and community or school involvement.

Step 4: Elaborate
Now that you have your list, go back through it and think of a few short sentences to describe what you did as part of each activity or accomplishment. Again, try not to limit yourself to just the day-to-day job description. Try to be as specific as you can and think about anything you did with each item that might be particularly impressive. For example, maybe your high school marching band won championships or your section won awards. Maybe you created a website for your school's student council to help them stay connected and promote events. Maybe your volunteer work helped raise $500 for a local non-profit. Try to begin each sentence with an "action word," you can find a list of some good ones here. For example, if you worked on an annual local Red Cross Blood Drive that broke a new donation record, you might write Organized and promoted a blood drive that increased blood donations by 225 pints. If you were a guitar player in a band that toured the country, you might right Played 45 venues in 39 different cities over three months.

Step 5: Categorize
Now you can take what you've decided to include and divide it into a few categories so you begin to build a format for your resume. It can be as simple as titles like "Education," "Volunteer," "Music," "Activities," "Experience," "Honors," or similar categories. These will be the headings when you actually write your resume.

Step 6: Write
Open a Word or Google Doc and start writing. Word actually has some resume templates you can use if you feel like you need a hand and there are plenty additional examples online. Star by including your name, in bold and a slightly larger font size, along with your contact information. Then if you've followed the previous steps your work should be easy now: simply write down each heading (in bold or underline) and the information and descriptions for each activity or experience. If it involves an actual job include the name of the company and your title and include dates for each activity if you can (keep this consistent though, if you can only be as specific as years then do that).

Step 7: Get Some Help
Don't stress about it too much, no one expects you to have a ton of experience or an award-winning resume when you're a student. Just do your best to show off what you have accomplished in a neat, polished, easily-readable manner. Once you complete a draft, find a guidance counselor, parent, teacher, or mentor you trust and have them review your work and help you to improve and finalize it. In fact, you're welcome to send it to me to get some tips! Feel free to send your draft to Katie@InternLikeARockstar.com and I'll do my best to help you improve it.
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