A resume might not be as exciting to write as a graphic novel or even an opinion essay that you have due at school, but it’s probably one of the most important documents that you’ll continually update throughout your school years and in your career.
Many articles about resumes cover how to handle a gap in work experience or advice on how to edit your resume to break into a new sector of the job market, but what about your very first resume?
What if you don’t have much experience to put on your resume and you are trying to get an internship or a first job?
If you’re a first-time resume writer, here are a few tips for you on how to write your first one (including tips on formatting and what experience to add).
Although you may not have much experience now, writing your first resume is just a stepping stone to what is sure to be a long and successful career.
1. First Things First: Make Sure You Have a Proper Word Processor
Just a note that before you begin writing your resume, you should have access to Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages in order to format and export your document into a PDF.
Although there are tons of different apps and programs you can write a document in, those are the standard programs that are used for writing professional resumes or cover letters.
If you don’t have access to one of those programs at home, go to your local library or the library at school to use their resources.
2. What Experience Should I Put if I Have Little or None?
Resumes are essentially a long laundry list of places you’ve worked and things you’ve accomplished. But if you’re just starting out, can you really be faulted for your young age and lack of experience?
The truth is that you probably have more experience to list than what you think.
First, you can list your education. If you’ve graduated high school you can put that and if you’re currently in college or trade school, you can list the school and put “degree (or certificate) in progress.”
You can list your GPA, any honors and awards you may have received in the past, or any other achievements you may have made throughout your school years.
And although you may not have worked at a full-time (or even a part-time) job yet, you probably have some sort of leadership or extracurricular experience under your belt.
What kind of extracurricular activities did you participate in high school? Were you in the band or in the speech and debate club? Were you president of the vegetarian club? Or maybe you were into sports. Were you ever captain of the soccer team or head cheerleader? Those are all things that show dedication and leadership skills.
You can also put any volunteer work that you may have done in the past. Did you ever go on a mission trip with your church? Or what about all those times you helped your mom set up her third-grade classroom?
Again, even though those weren’t paid positions, they still show that you took initiative when you didn’t have to, which is a very valuable asset in a future employee.
Lastly, you can also list your skills in a “Skills” section of the resume.
This is your opportunity to say that you know how to use Photoshop, Microsoft Office programs, or anything that the job listing mentioned that would be required to know for the position (such as customer service skills, phone skills, etc.).
3. How Do I Format a Resume?
There are probably thousands of different ways to format a resume. The most important thing to ask yourself when formatting is, “Can my future employer read the information easily and quickly?”
If the answer is yes, then it’s a good format. The main idea is that you want to group things by category, have a readable font, and make sure that your name is the biggest thing on the page.
Below is a picture of a sample resume that we’ll break down piece by piece so that you can get a better picture of how to build one.
Notice at the top of the resume, Suzie has listed her name, address, e-mail, and phone number. The font is Times New Roman (as is the rest of the document). It’s nice, neat, but also no frills.
The idea is that we want the employer to be able to read it clearly so that in case they want to call her for an interview, they can easily access her name and number.
In the body of the resume, we have four sections: Education, Work Experience, Other Relevant Experience, and Skills. Each section head is bolded and has a horizontal line underneath for easy reading.
Under education, she’s listed her high school and her university that she’s attended along with her GPA and her expected date of graduation from UCSB as well as what type of degree she’s pursuing.
Under work experience, she’s listed the two paying jobs she’s already had (if you haven’t had any at all, don’t panic). She’s put in what the company was first, then put the location of the job, the job title, and the dates of employment.
Notice that both of these jobs are written exactly the same way so that the information can be easily known and there’s no confusion.
Under other relevant experience, she’s put some information on volunteer work she’s performed in a neat, bulleted list. And finally, under skills she’s listed a couple of things that might be of interest to her future employer.
If you haven’t had any part-time or paying jobs yet, all you have to do is fill in more skills, volunteer work, clubs or organizations you’re involved in, and maybe even add an objective.
An objective is a short statement of what you would like to achieve in your job search, which will typically go at the top of a resume.
4. Always (Always) Proofread
The most important thing to do before you send off your bright, shiny new resume is to make sure someone proofreads it.
A proofreader can ensure that you have no misspelled items in your resume and that everything has a good flow and makes sense.
So, who should look over your resume? You could ask your parents, a trusted teacher, or even hire a professional editor to give it a once over.
The little details like spelling and grammar make a lasting impression and you definitely want to make sure you get everything right on the first submission.