We get it: you’re a rockstar. You’ve worked hard through college, keeping yourself involved with extracurriculars, volunteering, internships, side hustles, and maybe even some work that you got paid for, on top of being a superstar student. Even Wonder Woman would be proud of all that you’ve done to fiercely pursue your dreams. Now, however, it’s time to showcase your talents so that mentors, connections, and potential employers can get a true sense of who you are and what you want to do. How do you do this? A beautifully written and formatted resume. It’s an essential piece that every soon-to-be professional should have updated and easily accessible. I keep mine in a PDF and Word document on my phone’s Google Drive, for example, so it’s ready to send out at a moment’s notice, and I’m constantly tweaking it to make sure it accurately reflects my goals and experience. Writing your first resume (or even overhauling an existing one) can be intimidating, so to get started, we’ve rounded up our favorite tips for building a resume that will let your talents shine through:
Start With an Intention
A resume should be clear and focused, as it is a tool to help you achieve your goals. A goal is nothing without an intention, however. Take a moment and reflect on what you want your resume to convey and how it will help you meet your goals. Are you looking to break into the world of finance? Are you an aspiring writer or journalist? Passionate about politics? Decide what the purpose of your resume is and the path you want it to help you follow and begin to craft your resume around this intention.
Stick to One Page
This is one of my firmest beliefs when it comes to resumes: the one-page rule. Your resume should be easily scannable so a quick glance can give someone a basic overview of you, and a closer look can reveal even more. That initial scan, however, is crucial, as first impressions often last a long time, and our mentors and potential employers are often quite busy, so they don’t have time to go digging through a 2 or even 3-page laundry list of all of your accomplishments. This is not meant to limit you, though! Rather, think of the one-page rule as an opportunity to reflect on your experiences and showcase your most important accomplishments and skills so the very best of you is immediately visible. You wouldn’t want that killer internship you landed last summer that propelled you to choose the career path you’re on today to get bogged down by a list of every single club in which you’ve ever participated, would you?
In other words, take some time and reflect on the intention you set earlier. What experiences and skills do you have that best fit in line with this intention? For an aspiring writer or journalist, for example, choose experiences such as publication experience, writing and copyediting positions, tutoring positions, knowledge of publication styles such as APA, AP, Chicago, etc. If your resume is concise and focused it will be easy to link your personal experiences with the job you want.
Format, Format, Format
Keeping your resume at one page isn’t the only formatting essential your resume should have! Your resume should be easy to read — remember, the people who will be reading your resume are often incredibly busy so they shouldn’t have to waste precious time that could be spent getting to know you by trying to find out where you went to school, for example.
Begin by listing your name at the top, followed by a mailing address, phone number, and professional email address (something like yourname@gmail, outlook, or icloud.com — leave those AIM screen names in the past, please!) so a potential employer immediately knows how to contact you.
Next, list your education information, along with a graduation month and year, or an expected graduation month and year if you are still in college. List your major, as well as if it was a B.A. or B.S., and if you graduated with honors.
After your education should go any relevant professional experience, such as internships, extracurricular leadership positions, full-time employment, or even a side hustle. Begin with your most recent (or current) position, and work backwards from there, listing the dates of employment, and location. Below this, list your responsibilities and accomplishments in 3-4 bullet points, using clear and concise sentences, as well as specific details. For example, when I list my residential tutoring position from college, I note the number of office hours I held, the number and a few examples of programs I organized, and the offices I reported to. This way, a potential employer can not only see what I was responsible for as a tutor, but what I accomplished in addition to these responsibilities.
Awards and honors will follow your professional experience. This is the place to list any honors societies you participated in, any special awards you received, or even a thesis or research project you completed. Again, be concise, but as specific as you can. What was this honors society for? From which department did you receive this award? What was the title of your thesis or research project?
Finally, list your skills and interests. This is the section where anything else that’s unique to you that wasn’t covered above can shine! Do you enjoy traveling? Do you have particular experience with event organization and leadership? Do you have any certifications or trainings? This can be a mix of professional and personal, but they are points that you want to stand out to anyone reading your resume because they round out your educational and professional experiences, and awards and honors. In other words, you’re a go-getter, but you know how to balance your personal and professional life.
This is HUGE. Look over your resume (or ask a trusted friend to look it over) to make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes, as these can be an annoying eyesore on a stellar resume. Your resume must also be readable — use a standard and professional font (such as Georgia, Cambria, or Times New Roman), and ensure that the font size is at least size 11 so no one will have to use a magnifying glass. Finally, ensure that your resume is organized. For example, you could list all employers in bold, and all position titles in standard font so it is easy to group professional experiences together. This way, someone who only has a minute can jump easily from point to point. Once you’re properly formatted and organized, your resume is good to go!
Every rockstar deserves a resume that shows off her many talents and skills. With a little intention, focus, formatting, and readability, you’ll be on your way to showcasing the best of you.