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Student & New Graduate Resume Answers
By Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com

Don't forget to take a look at the 1st Writer's Student Center

I'm a student who has no applied experience. How do I go about writing a resume that will make me look good, even though I lack job experience?

The approach for a student resume is really no different than the approach of a resume of a CEO with 30 years of experience:

  1. Identify the type of work you want to do.

  2. Identify the skills and criteria prospective employers are hoping to secure in potential candidates (information usually learned via job ads, networking, company and industry research, etc.).

  3. Include everything about yourself that is relevant to the above.

  4. Leave everything else off.

Potential employers don't expect students or new graduates to possess vast amounts of hands-on or applied experience. Employers view education as a training ground.

As an entry level candidate, your new employer expects to invest in your training, in order to prepare you to successfully perform the functions necessary for the position. The expectation is that you're capable of accomplishing this training in a specific period of time and will be a contributing employee as soon as possible. What your college degree shows is that you're trainable and that you've secured the rudimentary skills and knowledge necessary for a particular field. See: What are employers really looking for in job candidates and resumes?

What to include: Personality characteristics and work ethics important to the job.

keep in mind that employers are looking for "attitude," "character," "motivation," and "leadership" traits in the entry level positions they fill.

So even if your only job was flipping burgers at the local hamburger joint, if you showed up for work on time, applied your best efforts, treated the work like it mattered, were an asset to your employer and the customers you served, and you worked well with your co-workers - then you can show a prospective employer that you are the "type" of individual who is well suited for the job.

You can achieve this by leading your document with a summary section that highlights those skills and characteristics you possess that will allow you to excel in the position or industry you're targeting. These can include: communication or interpersonal skills, time management abilities, problem solving skills, analytical abilities, computer proficiencies, etc.

Look at the ads you're targeting - what types of characteristics are they hoping to secure?

Another very good way of helping to identify these natural abilities is to ask yourself "What made me choose this field? What is it about this type of work that appeals to me? What part of this work do I look forward to doing most? Why do I think I'm going to be well suited for this role or industry?"

People who hate working with numbers and calculations are unlikely to pursue an education or position as a Certified Public Accountant. There must be something about the field you chose, the education you pursued, and the type of work it encompasses that attracted you.

Most people excel by doing work they enjoy - work which encompasses some natural ability, interests or inclinations.

Educational achievements - including course lists.

If your primary selling feature is your education, then it makes sense to lead your document with your educational achievements, even if you have unrelated work history to include.

Including courses completed can give your reader a greater sense of the value of your education. Including your GPA, if high, can also add value.

Later, as you gain more relevant, valuable career experience, including this type of information will become less important.



Drake University, Des Moines, IA


February 2012

  • Bachelor of Science degree; Accounting
    Minor in Business Administration  /  GPA 3.4

Coursework included: Cost Accounting; Advanced & Intermediate Accounting; Business Finance; Corporate Accounting; Income Tax; Auditing Principles & Procedures; Sarbanes-Oxley Act; Government Accounting; Not-for-profit Accounting; Marketing; Database Management; Business Administration; Ethical Decision Making.

Jobs, internships and all relevant experience.

This includes experience gained through internships and/or positions held where your primary responsibilities included skills directly relevant to the positions you're now targeting. Think about skills that may be considered "transferable."

Imagine, for example, someone who has decided to change career direction from the medical industry (previous positions held in medical office administration) to computer programming and information technologies. He or she has gone on to get a degree in computer science. If this person now decides to focus their search on IT positions within the medical industry, then all his/her previous medical experience has some direct relevance, and actually gives this individual an edge over other new IT graduates who are targeting positions in the medical market, but who have no applied experience in the medical field.

Unrelated paid experience with a focus on transferable skills.

If you've held unrelated positions, chances are you have still gained relevant, transferable skills. When you are writing your statements of responsibility for these positions, focus your statements on those skills and responsibilities that contain the greatest value and relevance. Don't forget to include your achievements.

For example, if you held positions in the past that included "customer service," and customer service skills are valuable to the positions now being targeted, then this is a transferable skill. If you were able to increase sales or profits because of your skills in customer service, or if you were able to secure long-term customer commitments, this is an achievement. Other transferable skills can include "time management," "problem solving," "team projects," etc.

Unpaid experience, such as community or college service, with a focus on transferable skills.

Related experience doesn't have to be paid experience. What matters is that you possess the applied skills, not that you were paid for your services.

Your reader will be interested to learn how your efforts and contributions benefited those you served, and how the skills gained through these experiences may now benefit future and potential employers. If you're a finance major, for example, and held the position of Treasurer for a campus organization, that's related experience - even if it's unpaid experience.

See more on student and college resumes at Student & College Resumes - Frequently Asked Questions.

Should I Hire a Professional Resume Writer?  /  1st-Writer.com Services

See more articles on job hunting

Good luck in your job search! Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com - over 18 years experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I'll be glad to help!

1st-Writer.com P.O. Box 1128, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-1128 (904) 248-2493   E-mail Sue Campbell

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This page last updated: 05/24/2012