It’s that time of year when university and college graduates are eager to secure their first professional opportunity. After two, three, four or more years, the excitement is probably equal to the anxiety of landing your first “real” job. If the career center at your school has qualified professionals on hand, with credentials such as those offered by CDI, (e.g. CARW, CMRW, or the CRS+X) then the advice they give you will be first rate. Often, post secondary education career centers have well-meaning staff but they do not have professional resume writing qualifications. I’m going to suggest some tips that you may have heard (or even opposite of what you have heard) from your school’s career center.
#1 – Try to keep the length to one page, two maximum. The record I’ve seen for a new grad with a four-year degree is six full pages. This can be achieved by including ONLY relevant information. With the well-honed formatting expertise of a credentialed CDI resume writer, squeezing and squishing content onto three or more pages just doesn’t happen. There are times when two pages are legitimately warranted. This can occur when somebody already has significant publications, speaking engagements or – gasp – they actually have relevant work experience if they are an “older” or second career new grad.
#2 – Accept the fact you are no longer in high school. Develop an opening marketing title instead of launching the document with the default title that shows up in software resume templates: objective. You are qualified in your field so represent yourself in terms of your industry (e.g. Business-oriented IT Professional, Registered Nurse Candidate, or Bilingual Elementary School Teacher)
#3 – After a brief introductory paragraph, list your education. It’s important to list this before any work experience because this is going to trump pumping gas or tending bar in terms of marketability. Make sure the degree or diploma name is front and center, more so than the university. List key courses that make sense for your career. Mentioning a degree without listing the top six or eight relevant courses might mean that you are selling yourself short. This section could also include special projects you worked on, peer tutoring, or volunteer activities you organized or supported, and academic honors.
#4 – Don’t feel that you have to list every job you’ve ever had. In fact, if you had position such as flipping burgers or running a cash register, you will be better off simply generalizing your work without all the specifics. (More than one new grad has told me that their school’s career center INSISTED they list at least two jobs on a resume.) The recruiters, decision makers and human resources professionals I know would rather hire someone based on qualifications and character traits than understanding all of the menial, non-relevant chores a candidate was assigned while trying to earn a few bucks). Without question, detail any (paid or unpaid) co-operative work term placements, practicum sessions, or teaching assistant roles you might have had.
#5 – Leverage something interesting that you have done thus far in your life. For example, if you travelled for a year, perhaps volunteering to teach ESL students, then include this under experience. (Nobody has to say it is professional or work experience.) List the countries you traveled to, the cultures you were exposed to, and of course mention any foreign languages you speak.
Overall, understand that resume templates or career centre rules will not work for everybody. You have to reflect on what is best for you as you market yourself.