Resumes for Dummies: How to Get your First Job
The first time a person applies for a job is an important milestone. As you’re heralding a new stage of life, chances are you’re pretty daunted. Think of the importance of a well-presented resume like you think of food. No matter what the food in front of you tastes like, you’d want it to be presented well, right? Especially if you know that it tastes good.
A resume is exactly like that.
Obviously, you want to do a great job on this, so let me answer the big Q: how do you write the perfect resume?
Resumes and CVs: what’s the difference?
Before anything else, let’s get this out of the way: a CV and a resume are not the same. They both serve the same purpose: they are a list of your experience and skillsets that you write out to secure your dream job. But the key difference is that they differ in length. CVs are generally longer than resumes, but a resume is what you’re likely to be asked during a job application.
A CV stands for curriculum vitae, which translates to “the course of my life” in Latin. Apt to its name, it is a list of your education history, work experience, achievements, and skillsets. The shorter your career is, the shorter your CV is – but a CV can range anywhere between 2 or 3 and even 10 pages.
A resume is a concise version of a CV. It is the most common document asked for a job application and is usually limited to a single page. What it is essentially is that is a marketing document that presents you as the perfect applicant for potential employers to hire.
The Elements: An Essential Resume Checklist
You won’t have much up your arsenal the first time you apply for a job, that’s a given. So here’s what you add:
- Your name (duh) and contact details including your email ID, phone number, and address. Potential employers should be able to contact you.
Pair that with a nice profile picture that’s ideally friendly, but professional.
- Education history: Update your school and college qualifications. You could even include your achievements and accolades as a subsection to give it depth. Extracurriculars are also recommended. Clubs, sporting events, competitions that you represented your school in – that kind of thing.
- Work Experience: As a fresher, this might be the most difficult section to fill up. But what works to your advantage is that you can play around a bit with this one. Here, you can add internships and even clubs or cells that you might have worked at college. Seriously, it works. It’s also a good idea for you to create a story through your work history: in other words, highlight the aspects of the job that show how your experience and prospective job are related.
- Skills/Specializations: In this section, you can add things that you are good at. Make sure the skills you add in this section are relevant to the position you are applying for.
- This one is optional, but it’s a good idea to have a short bio or profile summary in your resume as a preamble that’s also a summary of your skillset and your subsequent professional aspirations. It shouldn’t be over 2 or 3 sentences long.
- Depending on the position you’re applying for, nowadays, it’s also a good idea to add some of your social media handles. A professional networking site like LinkedIn is an essential. If you’re applying for anything that involves you being on the internet on a regular basis – like marketing, for example – some employers even ask about your Facebook, Twitter, etc. After all, in today’s day and age, social media has become an important currency of communication.
The Art of Customization: The X Factor
Now that you have all the content that you need for a resume (check!), let’s talk about making it even better. You have all the ingredients, but there’s still something missing. The “X factor”. The thing that gives all your ‘ingredients’ semblance and meaning. For a resume, the “X factor” is the way you customize your applications to make your resume seem more personal and appealing.
You’re probably applying to a lot of places to keep your options open (good going!), and it is best that each application has minor changes. A way to go about this is to give your resume a theme of sorts, that align your experience with the job you are applying for. In fact, if see that your resume already looks cluttered, it’s a good idea to filter out your skills as well. If you’re applying for jobs in multiple fields (this is perfectly normal when you’re applying for your first few jobs), single out the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the organization you want to work with.
General Guidelines: The Resume Commandments
Once you’re done with all of the above things, it’s a good idea to go through this list of guidelines to ensure that you’re going on the right track:
- The key is to hype yourself up. So, even if a skill seems a little tangential, add it because employers like to see versatility. Remember, it’s about marketing yourself.
- But that doesn’t mean you lie. Don’t lie. Just don’t do it. Lies spiral into more lies, and that’s not how you want to start your career, right? What you should be focusing on, instead, is a way to highlight the skills you are most confident about. Provide evidence, and samples if you’re asked. For example, if you say you’re good at writing, find a way to highlight your writing experience. Spinning your skills work to an extent, so long as you know when to stop.
- Give it your 100%. As a beginner, it’s perfectly acceptable to add high school experience (although school will seem like a lifetime away). Over the years, you will gain enough experience for you to be able to single out your most valuable experiences and skills to add in your resume. So if someone tells you that high school doesn’t count, trash that advice. For now.
- Maintain consistency. Filling out your resume won’t feel like you’re writing a Beowulf, but grammar always matters. Consistency can be a matter of aesthetics, but it’s also about little things like maintaining consistency in tense and sentence structure. Since you’re listing out your history in a concise, accessible way, the easiest path to stick to is simple past tense.
- As a rule of thumb, don’t clutter, because balance is key: there are ways to showcase your versatility in a single page. In any case, a resume is designed to be concise, so even if your page doesn’t fill up don’t feel daunted because you could actually make it work to your advantage. The easiest way to do this is through the words you use.
- But a far more effective way to approach this obstacle – whichever way you come from – is to make your document look aesthetically pleasing. You can arrange your sections in such a way that it makes the sheet easier to read. Believe me, your interviewers will be grateful. If visual arts isn’t your cup of tea, take advantage of the numerous pre-existing templates that Canva has to make your document look beautiful. Splash some colour to it, spice up the plain white sheet you would have otherwise turned in. But don’t overdo it (our recommendation: minimalism. You can never go wrong.)
So, there you have it. We’ll leave you to it. Now, go conquer every interview you have!
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