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November 22, 2011

5 Strategies for Composing Your First Resume Out of College

This post originally appeared on http://thecamspuscompanion.com and was written by a staff writer.

When college seniors are graduating they may not know how to construct a professional resume. Or worse, they may not have anything professional to put on their resume.  Here are 5 strategies that will help you construct a working resume if you have little or no experience in your chosen profession.

These suggestions will help you avoid common missteps, and can help you get through constructing your first resume.

1) Skip the Buzzwords

Certain words have become so widely used on resumes that, although they are positive, hiring managers actually see them as negatives.  Words such as detail-oriented, results-oriented, motivated, innovative, team-player, dynamic, active, hard-working, and many other buzzwords can make your resume seem generic, ego-stroking, or even worse disingenuous.

Instead, review the job description of the position you are applying for and identify explicitly listed skills desired.  If you possess these skills, and they can be isolated into keywords, then they might be worth including.

2) Don’t Under-Sell  Important Hobbies

If you were a hiring manager, would you hire someone you don’t like?  As a person, do you tend to like people you have stuff in common with more than those you don’t? Chances are, you, like everyone else in the world, like people you can relate to, and managers are the same.  This is why hobbies that are common in your field, or that aren’t too far-fetched, can add an extra element of personality to your resume.  Plus, they can show certain qualities rather than tell said qualities.  If your hobbies are jogging, sailing, and cooking it might tell an employer that you are a go-getter when it comes to goals (jogging/exercise), that you are dynamic and can analyze and adapt to environments (sailing), and that you are detail-oriented (cooking).

3) Don’t Under-Sell Personal Projects/Experience

For college students especially, there is something of a void where “experience” is concerned.  Many students approach their resumes with only non-career jobs like waiting tables, clubs or sports, and their degree, because this is the only quantifiable and credible experience they have.

Unfortunately, these don’t always do much for you because they don’t demonstrate that you have the skills or experience for a position you might want.  Many students fail to realize that just because a personal project isn’t endorsed by an institution, does not mean that it hasn’t given you work skills that are more important and relevant than those garnered in finance and investment club.  The same mistake occurs with self-employed individuals who fail to give their personal business the credit it deserves.

It is all about how well you can describe what you have done.  In other words, sometimes the only difference between a declared masterpiece and the painting you painted in your garage is a fancy-frame.

4) Avoid Unprofessional Email Addresses

So you’ve just spent four years using a school-issued email address, and now you no longer have it at your disposal.  Sometimes making a new email address can be brutal, especially if you have a generic name, but it is EXTREMELY important to make and maintain an email account that is professional.

If you put an email address on your resume like “dwarfmaster815@gmail.com” you are never going to get hired unless the job you are applying for is a tester position at WoW.

Be prudent.  The best email addresses include, at most, one number (no numbers is best), and some combination of your first, last, middle name, or initials.  If your name is Max Weber, try Mweber, or MaxWeber, or Mwebe.  Your name should be the only part of your address.

5) Creative Supplements or Alternatives Can Help You Score

Obviously, there is no substitute for a solid resume, but sometimes (for the right positions, with the right managers, and at the right company) you can achieve great success with a powerful alternative.

For example, the now internet-famous Chris Spurlock had great success, and landed his dream job, with his “Infographic resume.”  What makes his resume so potent is that it shows as opposed to tells.  For someone who wants to work in graphic media, and information visualization, what could be better than creating a graphic representation intended to sell himself.

This is not to say that everyone should try and create an alternative resume, or try something unorthodox like Spurlock, but if you can take a step back and come up with a creative way of representing yourself it might also help you realize what aspects to prioritize in your formal resume.  If, however, you are applying for a creativity-based position, then a creative alternative might help you get your foot in the door.

Spurlock's Infographic resume

Other Resources

The following link gives some basic tips on preparing your “basic” resume.  You should always keep in mind that tailor-making your resume for the job you are pursuing could set yours apart from the rest of the pack.

12 Common Mistakes on Resumes


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