Fresh grads, you may be over the moon about clearing a big educational milestone. And for sure, you deserve the warmest congratulations—it’s taken a lot of patience, hard work, and belief in yourselves to get where you are now. But now it’s time to face a whole new world of challenges, some of which are: (1) putting yourself out there in the employment pool, (2) deciding on what manner of job to take on, and (3) doing well so that you can earn for yourself and your families.
The very first task you’ll need to complete to shift your status from “funemployed” to “man/woman of the house” is making your own resume. Ideally, a resume functions as a micro-pitch of who you are, what you’re good at, and what you have to offer to a would-be employer. Once finished, you can funnel the resume off in the traditional ways (such as handing it out at job fairs, visiting agencies that accommodate walk-in applicants) or in ways that make use of modern technology (such as posting on job listing sites, and then waiting for alerts).
But woe is the fresh grad who isn’t wise about their resume. A document that’s badly formatted, overly long, or all over the place may be passed over, and the promising new graduate won’t be able to compete with many other fellow job-seekers out there.
That said, what should a fresh grad do with their resume in order to have a fighting chance? Here’s a short list of tips on writing your resume, choosing credentials, and formatting the document proper—all of which should bring you closer to your dream job.
- Specify what role, field, and type of work you’re interested in. The “objective statement” has long been a fixture of resumes, but you don’t have to follow that exact format in yours. Most headhunters now recommend that you put a simple statement of the type of work you want, the position you think you’re suited for, and your skills under your name (for example, “Juan de la Cruz—graphic designer and illustrator looking to work in the food and beverage industry”). This will enable your would-be employers to have a quick survey of your career goals—and whether or not they align with the company’s.
- Filter out the details that take up unnecessary space in the resume. Common practice is to keep the resume short and sweet. Employers typically do not look past the first two pages; they may not have the time, or worse, they may dismiss you on the impression that you’re oversharing. To be honest, a fresh grad may be tempted to list every single club affiliation or civic project they’ve done in order to make up for their lack of work experience. But it is best to list only the affiliations that you find most important, or that are related to the field that you’re applying to. For example, you can list your leadership experience in your school’s marketing organization if you’re interested in a marketing communications position; similarly, you can cite the volunteer hours you’ve put in for charity if you want a job that’s socio-civic in nature.
- Choose a format that’s easily readable but pleasing to the eyes. Some employers scan through hundreds of resumes every day. At some point, they suffer from choice fatigue because the documents all start to look the same. With that knowledge in mind, you should settle on a formatting scheme that makes your resume stand out visually; this will make you memorable amongst other candidates with a similar background. Don’t go overboard on graphics or fonts, though—stick to simple, crisp lettering, clean lines, and the occasional pop of color.
- List your credentials in a neat order. Once you’ve chosen the details that you’ll put on the resume, make sure they’re listed in a coherent manner. The safest way to do so is to categorize each credential (school, honors attained, major projects completed, certifications, internships, club affiliations) and to list them down in chronological order, with a short description when necessary. Be clear, concise, and specific in the language you use; switch out passive-sounding verbs with active verbs (i.e., instead of “took on the role of video editor for X,” write “edited X video”).
- Supply more than your contact details. Most resumes only include the applicant’s email address and telephone number as contact details. But if you maintain an active LinkedIn account, have a personal website or blog, or keep a portfolio of any creative work in a digital format, supply these links on your resume. If you’ve caught the employer’s eye, then they will want to look into your online presence—and make the decision from there.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Good grammar and spelling can spell the difference between a great-looking resume and an unprofessional one. It is especially embarrassing to misspell the names of institutions or companies; if you are not sure about the particular spelling or punctuation norms, then you can always check Google or reread the company’s promotional materials.
Don’t hesitate to tailor-fit your resume to different companies, positions, or fields of work when necessary. What’s important is sending out a document that articulates a “perfect match” for whoever is looking.
And lastly, don’t hesitate to put yourself out there! Be proud of who you are and what field you’ve chosen. May your resume reflect how much you have to offer the world!