Crafting the Perfect Resume… When You’ve Never Had a Job

Published: Aug 08, 2012

 Career Readiness       Resumes & Cover Letters       
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There are plenty of resume-writing tips out there for those of us with experience in our fields—using action verbs, formatting in an attractive and easy to read manner, highlighting only relevant employment. But how do you go about creating a resume that doesn’t look empty when you’ve been a full-time student your whole life?

First, the bad news: even recent graduates are expected to fill up a page with relevant experience. But here’s the good news: “relevant experience” is a much broader category for an entry-level position than for a more senior role. Many of the activities you’ve participated in and interests you’ve developed—even while in school—are appropriate to include. Here are some of the things you can include on your resume when you’re just starting out:

Academic achievements. List any academic recognition you’ve received in your education section, under the school to which it is relevant. This includes receiving honors and making the dean’s list, but it could also include receiving the highest grade in your English Literature class or getting all A’s within your major. If you’ve done an independent project with a teacher or professor, you should list that as well.

Relevant coursework. Don’t assume that the person reading your application package will be poring over your transcript. List out classes you’ve taken that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing job, include any communications, English and public speaking classes.

Clubs. If you were a member—or better yet, an officer—of your school’s photography club, fraternity or sorority, or French club, hiring managers want to know about it. Even if the subject matter of the club has nothing to do with the job in question, any kind of consistent involvement shows responsibility and commitment. Make sure to include any responsibilities you had as a member, such as organizing weekly meetings or maintaining the group’s website.

Sports and musical instruments. Similarly, playing a sport or instrument throughout school demonstrates hard work and dedication. It doesn’t matter whether you were team captain, All-American or first chair (although that certainly wouldn’t hurt)—simply keeping up with this kind of activity on top of your school work says a lot about your work ethic and personality.

Volunteer work. While it’s preferable to show a long-term commitment to a cause or organization, virtually any kind of volunteer work is appropriate to list on a resume. Did you pass out water at your city’s marathon or work at a food bank over Thanksgiving? Employers like to see a commitment to the community.

Languages. Proficiency in another language is always appropriate to include in your resume. Just don’t overstate your fluency—you never know what languages your interviewer might speak!

Computer skills. Awesome at Excel? Know HTML? Great with InDesign? You’d be surprised at how valuable these skills are to many employers.

Any kind of employment at all. Sure, you’ve never had a full-time job. But working while going to school—as a camp counselor, waiter, babysitter or grocery store stocker—is extremely impressive and can set you apart as a candidate with “real world” experience.

Activities and interests. What do you do in your free time? (Hopefully, the answer to this is not just “watch Law and Order reruns.”) If you take dance classes or have an affinity for foreign films, add these activities to your “Interests” section. Besides adding a little more bulk to your resume, this section helps individualize you among hundreds of candidates.

What else have you included in your resume? Let us know in the comments!